How to Create a Link-Building Strategy from Scratch

Google examines roughly 200 different factors to determine page rank.

That’s a lot!

But what’s arguably the most important is backlinks.

Here’s a chart from Moz that shows how important links are:

Search Engine Ranking Factors 761x600

Backlinks have been, and continue to remain, one of the top ranking factors, making them Google’s primary form of “currency.”

In March 2016, Google Search Quality Senior Strategist, Andrey Lipattsev went on record describing the two most important ranking factors.

According to Lipattsev,

it is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.

He didn’t specify which was more important, content or links.

But you can bet they’re both incredibly important!

It’s fair to say if you ever expect to make any real headway with SEO, you need a link-building strategy.

The question is, how do you create one?

There are a lot of ways to go about it, and everyone has their opinion on which aspects you should focus.

In this post, I’m offering my advice on how to create a link-building strategy from scratch.

I’m going to highlight the most vital elements necessary for an SEO surge.

This by no means covers all the aspects of link building but will serve as a good starting point that should help you bring in valuable links from a variety of reputable sites.

Compile a list of sites

Your first order of business is to come up with a list of sites you want links from.

This is somewhat of a science because sites vary greatly.

For instance, a link from one site can be a godsend and have an incredibly high link value.

But a link from another site can carry virtually no weight and even result in a penalty.

Where do you start and what criteria do you use?

You’re probably already aware of at least a handful of blogs, publications and other digital resources relevant to your industry.

This is a good starting point.

If you know for a fact they’re popular and get a lot of love from Google, you’ll want them to link to you.

Besides that, here are a few other things you can do.

Analyze competitors

You can learn a lot by investigating your main competitors and finding out where they’re getting their backlinks from.

SEMrush is one of my favorite tools because you can unearth a ton of information within seconds.

Even the basic, free version can supply you with plenty of helpful data.

Here’s what you do.

Type in the URL of one of your main competitors.

I’ll just use Moz as an example:


You’ll then see something like this:


Scroll down a bit until you see the “Backlinks” section.

Click on it:

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You’ll then see a list of sites linking to that competitor:


This includes other helpful info such as the specific target URL, page score, anchor text and so on.

Browse through this list, and look for potential sites you would be interested in getting backlinks from.

Keep in mind if they’re already linking to a competitor in your same industry/niche, there’s a good chance they would link to you as well.

By looking at Moz’s backlinks, I might include the following sites:

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Search by keyword

Here’s another simple technique for coming up with link-worthy sites.

Search by keyword on SEMrush.

Just enter a fitting keyword applicable to your demographic.

I’ll use “content marketing” as an example:

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Click on “Search,” and SEMrush will supply you with a nice list of resources.

Scroll down to “Organic Search Results.”


That should give you some good ideas.

But you can take it one step further by clicking on individual sites.

Let’s check out Copyblogger:


Follow the same steps I mentioned earlier to see who’s linking to those sites for even more ideas.

Now add those to your list:


The importance of domain diversity

When it comes to backlinks, diversity is a good thing.

Recent research from Backlinko found,

the number of referring domains has a very strong influence on rankings. In other words, it’s better to get 10 links from 10 different sites than 10 links from the same domain.

05 Number of Referring Domains line

The logic here is that getting links from a wide array of sites, rather than just a few, gives you more endorsements in Google’s eyes.

In turn, this should have a positive impact on your SEO.

Cast a wide net and strive to get backlinks from as many relevant, trustworthy sites as possible.

Be sure you’re not limiting yourself to only a handful of sites.

While links from a few sites is better than nothing, you want to strive for a diverse link profile.

“Skyscraper it”

Here’s a question.

Why would anyone want to link to your site in the first place?

What would their motivation be?

It’s simple.

You’ve got killer content.

That content is enriching their audience’s knowledge of a topic they are interested in.

This means one thing.

You need A+, top-tier content that surpasses that of your competitors.

To be completely honest, it’s not always feasible to be 100% unique, especially if you’re in a really saturated industry.

But what is always possible is creating better content.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of creating content that outranks your competitors’, but I’ll mention the skyscraper technique because it’s a proven strategy for outperforming the rest of the pack.

This should make your content link-worthy and your link-building efforts much easier.

You’ll need to create content like a pro, and one of the best ways to go about it is to use the skyscraper technique.

Ideally, you’ll have a sizable list of articles on your site covering multiple aspects of your industry.

I also recommend thinking outside the box and creating content others have ignored.

Zigging when everyone else is zagging can unlock some big opportunities and make your brand stand out.

It also makes your content more appealing to link to.

For example, you might want to experiment with infographics, videos, slideshows, etc.

This will also be important for inevitably gaining links from a variety of different domains.

Match content with relevant sites

At this point, you should have a list of credible, relevant sites you’re interested in getting backlinks from.

You should also have a nice little archive of content on your site.

Now, you need to match your content with suitable sites.

Here’s an example.

I’ve written an article called How to Become a World-Class Copywriter in One Month or Less.

This is in line with subjects covered on Copyblogger, so that would be a good match.

I’d place that beside on my list:


Rinse and repeat this process for the rest of sites on your list.

Contact site owners

The last step is the outreach process.

Reach out to those website owners to see if you can get them to link to you.

Writing individual emails for each and every single website isn’t usually feasible, so I suggest sticking with a script you can easily personalize.

Utilize a template but personalize a few small details to fit the site you’re contacting (and so it doesn’t come across as insincere or robotic).

Backlinko offers a great script:


It covers all the essentials but is quick and to the point.

As long as your content hits its mark, this should help you bring in the backlinks you’re looking for.

This guide from Art of Emails offers some additional scripts for acquiring backlinks.


The concept of link building is a wide umbrella.

This post covers only a few of all the link-building techniques out there.

Check out this resource from Point Blank SEO for a massive list of link-building tactics.

But following this formula should help you gain some initial momentum.

It will also put you on the radar of other sites and publications within your industry, which can lead to even more links in the future.

Now, allow me to recap.

  • Use research to compile a list of the “likely-linker” sites (pay close attention to their authority and relevance to your industry)
  • Analyze competitors and keywords to assist you in this process
  • Create a large, diverse list because Google looks closely at domain diversity
  • Create great, link-worthy content
  • Get in touch with site owners to see if they’d link to you

Of course, not everyone will oblige you and instantly link to your site.

But if you go about it the right way and have killer content, a reasonable portion of them will.

And that can make all the difference and be the catalyst for a beefy, robust link profile.

How big of a role do you think backlinks will have five years from now?

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  1. Andrew Rogers :

    Are you testing the use of Click to continue Read More Tag placement? Have noticed you using it less and less as of late.

  2. J. Ustpassing :

    What I love is all the “tests” and “research” that these people do.
    1) In the majority of cases, the “Tests” are not, they are observations
    2) In the majority of cases, the “Research” consists of general observations
    3) I don’t think I’ve seen anyone come up with anything that hasn’t been well known/established for a decade.

    ” Oh, links are an important ranking signal ”
    ” Hmmm, our research tells us link source diversification is better than link source concentration ”
    Really? { dripping in sarcasm }

    Yes, it’s good to keep an eye on things (G do tend to tweak/adjust) …
    … but these people exclaim and proclaim like it’s news!

    Link building serves 3 major purposes;
    1) SE Ranking influence
    2) Traffic generation
    3) Brand expansion/reach

    The aspects/features of the link depend on the type.

    If you are after Brand/Traffic – then you need to research where your target audience(s) are/go, when/where they are receptive, and get links on those sites/platforms/apps etc.
    Though some SE benefit would be nice, having them nofollwoed/redirect throttled isn’t a major consideration.

    If you are going after Brand – then you want to go on sites that will improve perception.
    That means being associated with particular concepts, ideals, methods, profiles/personalities/activities etc.
    Again, some SE benefit would help, but it isn’t really a factor.

    If you are going after SE gain – then there’s a ton of other considerations to look at.

    1) Link Source Diversification :- the more domains that link to you, the better (numerous links from the same origins are likely to carry less value after “n” links).

    2) Link Location :- Whether the link occurs in the Content (context), in an accompanying block (sidebar/after-content) or as an afterthought (spammy footer etc.).

    3) Link Order :- If there are numerous links on a page, there is the potential that the earlier occurring links get more value than later links (there’s at least 1 patent!).

    4) Text Size :- Yes, there’s even a patent covering whether Styling/Element inclusion can influence the link value (strong/bold/font-size etc.).

    5) Link Acquisition Rate :- the number of links you get over time can be a factor (potentially relating to ranking fluctuations (see Link Lifespan)). It’s not simply a case of “Get N hundred links and G will shoot you down” – it’s whether G keep seeing the pattern, and whether there is a valid cause (such as viral posts etc.).

    6) Link Lifespan :- There’s the chance that links “degrade”, posses a “half-life”. What’s more likely is that links have Value=X, but for a short time have Value=X+1. (thus getting links consistently will maintain ranking position, where as only occasionally may see you rise/fall a position or two).

    7) Link Relation :- Whether the linking page “theme” and destination page “theme” are the same/similar, and whether the Link Text is related.
    Links are worth at-least X. What is unknown is if there is a modifier for LinkText that pertains to the Origin and/or Destination (And whether it’s domainwide, directory wide, page specific or term/word specific) (requires a large volume of links to test!).

    8) Link Value Diversification :- You do not want to be seen only getting high-value links.
    That sort of behaviour is highly suspect. Make sure you also get a number of low- and mid-value links as well as a few higher-value ones (else you look unnatural).

    9) There’s a ton more like the above!

    G have way over 350 factors. I doubt they all function at the same time, nor for all page/content types – but you will find a fair % of those factors are based on Links (various facets/combinations).

    So the best bet is;
    1) Decide on the purpose of the link
    2) Research competitors/related sites for link ideas
    3) Score up those sources for purpose + SE value
    4) Only pick a tiny number of V.High value ones, a small number of High value ones, a moderate number of Medium value ones and a big number of Low value ones
    5) Make sure you have some content/activity that is worth them linking too
    6) Get in touch and see about a link

    +++ Bonus +++
    IF you are going to go around doing link building (which is technically against the guidelines), you should do it “smart”.
    Monitor your “natural” link acquisitions, and see what triggers them.
    When you next trigger a wave, deploy some of your manual activities.
    Hide the link building in the midst of natural link acquisition 😀

    • What is the difference between natural link acquisition and link building? Can you please throw some light?

      • J. Ustpassing :

        Natural Link = the only thing you had to do with things is creating the content.
        Unnatural Link = you asked, paid, arranged, swapped or created the link.

        Link build = Unnatural Link

        But … not all Link building/Unnatural links are “bad”, and the Search Engines permit a % of self-built links. They expect you to show in some directories. They expect you to have some links from social profiles/3rd party platforms.
        They don’t mind a % of links coming from things like article/ezine sites, guest posts, press releases etc.

        It’s only really a problem when the only links (or the larger % of them) come from such sources. If the vast majority of your links are from your own posts, your own listings, your own profiles … it suggests that your site is not really that popular.

        It’s worse if the sites those links are built on are of questionable value/trust/authority. If a large % of your links come from spammy, scammy or generally naff sites … it suggests that your site is of similar quality (or the lack of such).

        In conclusion – it’s fine to build some links.
        Quality + Relevant industry/location directories.
        Your own Business/Staff profiles on various social platforms.
        A ‘small’ number of Guest Posts on industry sites (of note/quality).
        Just don’t over do it.

  3. James Oliver :


    Great writing !! Will come back for more.

    Thanks for sharing here.

  4. Hi Neil,

    You have explained everything in the proper way. Thanks. And I want to know a single thing that if we are doing link building for a single post that we should take backlink on Brand Name, Post Name or Keyword Which we want to rank for.

    For Example, if our web page is

    And we are doing guest posting or any other link building activity that we have to get a link back on “Search Engine Optimization” or “Astound Edge” anchor text. Which one is good?

  5. 9roses media :

    Great post thanks for sharing with us

  6. Very informative, keep posting such good articles, it really helps to know about things.

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