Link Building: How to Get Your First 50 Backlinks and Grow Your Traffic
Updated on April 15th, 2021
Link building as a new company is no easy feat.
You’re faced with a chicken and egg problem: you need backlinks to build your website authority and grow your organic traffic, but it’s hard to convince other brands and websites to link out to you if you don’t already have that authority and traffic.
That’s why getting your first links is crucial to building the flywheel for both your organic traffic and website authority.
In this post, we’re going to be revealing a link-building strategy that new companies can use to earn their first 50 organic links. It utilizes 3 different link-building methods that we’ve used to build links consistently.
What is link building?
Link building is a pillar of SEO in which marketers try to acquire or earn inbound links. Inbound links are hyperlinks that point back to a page on your website domain and are sort of like the currency of SEO – the more you have, the better (with a few conditions).
The goal of link-building campaigns is to get as many other relevant website domains in your niche to link out to your website or page as possible.
How does link building help you grow?
Link building helps you grow in two ways: it boosts your website authority and it drives organic traffic.
Website authority—or Domain Authority (DA)—is a crucial concept in SEO that functions as a measure of how relevant, trustworthy, and authoritative a site is. It’s one of the biggest website ranking factors and has a direct impact on where your website pages rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The greater your website authority, the more likely you are to rank on page one for your target keywords.
Search engines like Google assess your website authority through various analytic algorithms that look for authority signals.
When search engines crawl the web and find a bunch of high-quality backlinks to your domain embedded in the content on other websites, it sends a message to the algorithm: “Hey, this domain must be authoritative if this many other sites are linking to it, let’s rank its content higher on the SERPs”.
And when your content starts ranking better and becomes more visible in the SERPs, your organic traffic increases alongside it.
Not only that, but if you were selective about where you built your links, all those backlinks you earned could also be sending you a ton of direct referral traffic as visitors on other websites click through.
Link building tools to lighten the load
Before we get into building your first links, we want to mention a few tools that can help. These aren’t strictly essential for link building, but they do make it a lot easier.
Google Search Console
Google’s free Search Console tool is the easiest free way to keep track of your backlinks. You can use their link report feature to monitor the number of external links pointing back to different pages on your site so that you can measure the progress and success of your link-building efforts.
It’s free to sign up for Search Console, so there’s no reason not to. Once you’ve signed up, click on ‘Links’ in the sidebar to open up the link report.
From there, under ‘external links, you’ll be able to see your ‘top linked pages’ (the pages on your site with the highest number of backlinks), ‘top linking sites’ (the domains that link out to you the most), and the ‘top linking text’ (the anchor text most commonly used for hyperlinks to your site).
You can click ‘more’ under ‘top linked pages’ to see a full list of pages on your site with backlinks. Clicking on any of these pages will bring up a list of all the sites that link to that page.
Google Analytics is another free tool that you can use to keep track of your organic traffic. It’s important to keep an eye on your traffic and where it’s coming from so you can measure whether or not the links you’ve built are helping you to grow as expected.
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to see an overview of the number of sessions your website or individual pages has had. You can look at the number of sessions over the last few months to get an idea of whether your traffic is trending upward or downward over time. If it’s trending upwards, it’s a good signal that your efforts are paying off.
If you navigate into the ‘Audience Acquisition’ section, you can take a closer look at exactly where that website traffic is coming from, what pages it’s going to, and what keywords are driving the traffic. You can also monitor your referral traffic to see whether any of your links are sending you direct referrals.
Ahrefs is a paid tool, and it doesn’t come cheap. But if your marketing budget can stretch to it, it’s an invaluable tool for link building—and essential for one of the methods we’re going to talk about below.
You can use Ahrefs to track your links in much greater depth than Google Search Console. You can also use it to analyze your competitor backlinks, find new backlink opportunities, and more.
How to get your first 50 links (from least to most effort required)
There are a ton of link-building methods out there, but in our experience, the 3 that deliver the best results for new websites are:
- The HARO method
- The Broken Link Building method
- Guest posting
Here’s what you need to know about each of them and how they fit into an effective link-building strategy.
If you didn’t already know, HARO—Help a Reporter Out—is a free online service that connects reporters with questions to sources with answers. Anyone can sign up to HARO as either a source or a reporter.
It works like this:
- Journalists submit requests/questions in order to gather quotes for whatever project they’re currently working on.
- Those requests are sent out to anyone signed up as a source on the HARO mailing list in three daily emails.
- If you feel you can contribute something valuable to one of the requests, you then email the reporter with a valuable response to their query in the hopes of being featured in the article they’re working on.
If you get featured, the reporter will typically include a link back to your website alongside your quote, which makes HARO contributions a great way to land easy backlinks.
How to get started with HARO
First, sign up for an account on HARO and opt in to their mailing list. You’ll have to fill out some basic information about you/your company and then choose your preferences by selecting the specific queries you’re most interested in. This will determine what kind of emails you receive.
Don’t be tempted to select them all as your inbox will be flooded with duplicates. Plus, you’re not going to be qualified to—or even want to—answer queries on every topic anyway.
The goal is to get relevant backlinks embedded in content that’s relevant to your industry as these are the most beneficial. There’s little point in answering queries about biotech if your company sells pet products.
Once you start receiving emails, you’ll want to sift through them and pick out only the best queries.
Look for queries where:
- You can contribute something useful
- The outlet the content will be published on is worth having a backlink on (authoritative and relevant).
Most journalists will list the publication website on the request. You can use a tool like Moz to find the DA (Domain Authority) score of the website. The higher the DA, the more valuable the backlink will be.
When you respond to a query, the goal is to come across like an expert. Answer promptly, accurately, and professionally. Keep it short and sweet as in most cases, they’ll be looking for short quotes and will have a word limit.
Include all relevant credit information below your response (like your byline, name, title/position, website, email, and a headshot).
Make sure you keep track of the pitches you’ve sent so you can check whether or not your quote has been used as in some cases, the journalist might fail to notify you.
Guest posting is a tried-and-tested link-building method that we’ve had a ton of success with. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking and while it takes a little more time and effort than other methods, it’s quite effective when you get up and running.
With guest posting, the idea is to pitch website owners or bloggers with guest post ideas. The goal is to land guest posts on relevant blogs and websites that are closely related to your niche so that you can include a link back to your site.
Ideally, you’ll be able to embed a contextual backlink within the guest post back to your website. If not, you’ll be offered a backlink within the author byline.
Getting started with guest posting
The first step in guest posting is to find potential guest post opportunities. There are a few different ways to go about this.
The first way is to use Google search operators. These are search strings you put into Google, such as:
- + “guest blog”
- + “Write for us”
- + “Contribute”
Copy and paste any of the above into Google and replace ‘Keyword’ with your niche/industry and it should bring up a bunch of relevant websites that accept guest posts. You can then sift through these to pick out the most authoritative and relevant sites and make a list of them.
Alternatively, you can use tools like Ahrefs to spy on your competitors and analyze their backlinks to find out where they’ve managed to land guest posts, and then pitch your post ideas to the same places.
Once you’ve made a list of the sites you want to pitch to, take a look at their guest posting guidelines and send them a thoughtful email with a valuable pitch. The pitch should usually include a few topic ideas for articles, and why you think it’d add value to their site. The more time you spend honing and personalizing your pitch, the more success you’ll have.
Broken Link Building
The final strategy we’d recommend is the Broken Link Building method. This is an advanced but super-effective tactic.
It works like this:
- First, you find an article/blog in your niche (but not on your website) that had garnered a ton of links but has since been taken down
- Next, you recreate the content on that now-defunct article and publish it on your own website.
- You then reach out to all of the sites that linked to the original article, notifying them that they have a broken link on their page, and asking them to replace it with a link to your new resource instead.
The reason this works so well is that it’s scalable. Instead of writing dozens of guest posts for individual links, you can potentially gain dozens of links from just one article.
The idea is that nobody wants a broken link on their website as it contributes to a poor user experience, so in theory, when you notify people about the broken link, they’ll be more than happy to swap it out with your replacement article.
In practice, of course, it doesn’t always work that way. The majority of people you email won’t bother to replace the link or even respond—but it’s a numbers game.
If you find a broken resource with links from hundreds of websites, you can send out one bulk email to all those websites. Even if you only have a 5% success rate, that’s still 5 new backlinks from one article—not bad!
Start today with Broken Link Building
Unfortunately, you can’t carry out a Broken Link Building campaign without the right tools for the job. You’ll need access to Ahrefs in order to find dead pages which have tons of backlinks on sites in your niche.
If you have Ahrefs, here’s what you do:
- Start by creating a list of authoritative competitor domains within your niche
- Open Ahrefs site explorer and search for one of the domains
- Navigate to Pages → Best Pages by Backlinks and then filter the results by ‘404 not found’.
- This will bring up all the pages that no longer exist on the website with the most backlinks. You can see how many sites are linking to it alongside it. We’re interested in the Dofollow figure, and what those sites are.
- Once you’ve found a page with a 404 error and at least 30+ links, use the Wayback Machine to open up an old version of the page. You can use this to recreate the content.
- Finally, you’re going to send an email out to all of the sites that linked to the original article asking them to update their broken link.
We won’t get into how to craft your email here as there’s just too much to say, but don’t be too pushy and make sure you personalize it by including the name of the recipient and the website, so it doesn’t just look like a generic bulk email. This will improve your response rate.
You can repeat the process for all of the different competitor sites you identified in step 1 as many times as you like, so it’s easily scalable.
Where to start as a new company
The best link-building strategy will utilize all of the above methods in stages – you don’t want to jump in with all 3 at once as you just won’t have the time.
We’d recommend starting with the HARO method. Sign up and try to start answering at least one HARO query per day – this should get the ball rolling. If you make it a part of your routine and set aside time each day to fire off a couple of responses, you should start seeing your first few links come in.
Once you’re off the ground with HARO, you can layer up your efforts and start pitching some guest posts. Having a few links already from HARO will give you a little bit of initial authority that could improve your chances of landing guest posts. Again, factor guest posting into your working day and aim to pitch at least 10 sites per month (we started by finding targets in bulk and then pitching 3 per week).
After a few months, you might want to start looking into more advanced strategies like Broken Link Building. This will take more time and effort but by this point, you should have already mastered the other 2 and have them in a routine, so you can start putting aside some time each to search for dead pages/broken links.
Within a few months, you’ll have your first 50 links in the bag.
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