How To Get Started Building Backlinks (for Beginners)

I know there are a million other blog posts out there on link building, but I’ve been working with a site owner who has read lots of those posts and still has questions. And that’s understandable because there so many guides on them with sometimes conflicting advice.

So, I’m going to try to briefly (haha) cover how to start building links to your site based on how I am building links for my sites right now. If you’re experienced at this, then you may wanna skip over some bits as I’m trying to make this as accessible as possible to people who are complete noobs at it.

And, here we go…

Backlinks 101 for Beginners

Totally new to backlinks? A backlink is simply a link from someone else’s website pointed at your website.

This here is what it looks like on a web page.

And the word “here” above is the “anchor text” for the link.

Why do you need backlinks pointed at your site? Because Google uses them as a sort of endorsement that your site is awesome. And when Google thinks your site is awesome, you rank better in the search results.

But you can’t just get backlinks from anywhere. Some actually hurt you, while others help you more than most.

The best backlinks are niche relevant and high authority.

By niche relevant, I mean that if you have a site about baseball, then other baseball and sports sites are niche relevant. But a site about model trains is not niche relevant…at all.

By high authority, I mean sites that Google deems to have a high reputation. Good examples of this are WebMD in the medical/health niche and The Points Guy in the travel/travel rewards niche. But something like shawnascooltravelsite.com is not high authority (with some exceptions, which we’ll get to).

With this all in mind, the best links are both high authority and niche relevant. And the worst are low authority and not niche relevant.

How do you tell is a site has good/high authority?  If you’ve heard of it, then it’s likely a high authority site.

You can also use popular SEO tools like Ahrefs and Moz to check the authority rating each tool have given a site. There are plenty of tools that give authority scores or ratings, but these two are the most common.

  • Ahrefs’ authority score is DR, or domain rating
  • Moz’s authority score is DA, or domain authority

Personally, I prefer to use the Ahrefs DR because it is very easy to manipulate the Moz DA rating for a site.

You can also check the backlinks for a site using a tool like Ahrefs to see if other high authority sites are linking to them, which is an obvious sign of authority. But, this may be too much for a complete noob to attempt – so instead stick to checking the DR or DA.

When Should You Start Building Backlinks?

You should start building links to your site as soon as you’ve got a site worth linking to.

This means that getting one or two posts live on your site probably isn’t enough to make the site worthy of backlinks. The exception is if those one or two pieces of content are fucking exceptional.

Another exception is if you’re buying links, cause people will link to almost anything if you pay them.

Think about it like this – if you received a request to link to your site right now, would you do it? If not, keep working on growing your site until it’s ready for backlinks.

How To Get Backlinks

Of course, there’s more than one way to get backlinks to your site. You can do one of the following:

  • pay for them
  • seek them out (outreach)
  • wait for them to magically naturally appear

There are plenty of site owners who do zero backlink building and claim to be ranking and earning just fine. You can take that approach if you want, but it does seem to take several years for that magical mojo to kick in…if it does for you at all.

Paying for links is a popular option with some subsets of SEOs, like myself, because it’s the easy way to do it. But, it can also be very costly, with some niches having higher backlink costs than others.

In my opinion, the safest (yeah, I know safety is relative in SEO) way to buy links is to buy editorial links or pay for guest posts. This year (2020, if you’re reading this later), I’ve been using SerpLogic for editorial links and Nobs.link for guest posts.

Plenty of people also pay for link insertions in existing articles, though I’ve only done this a few times for my sites. This is just emailing site owners and asking if you can pay them to put a link to your site in an article that you’ve selected.

When you seek out your own links via outreach, you sometimes still end up being asked to pay for them. This happens a lot when outreaching on your own and asking site owners to accept a guest post from you.

However, if you’re doing something like Skyscraper link building, then you tend to get fewer requests for payment.

You also don’t have to pay when you’re doing HARO outreach, which is one of my current favorite link building methods.

I’ve also been successful with finding outdated epic content in my niche and then creating something better that I use to outreach to every site linking to the outdated content. I simply let them know they’re linking to outdated content and suggest they replace that link with a link to my content piece.

What about PBN links?

While I do use these still, sparingly and mostly on test sites, I do not recommend that newbies use PBN links. They can be incredibly risky, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

What You Should Know About Anchor Text

For some site owners, picking the anchor text is one of the most confusing parts of building backlinks. And if you do it wrong, then you can actually end up harming your site.

The best rule of thumb here is to try to never repeat the same anchor text, with the exception of the following:

  • generic words like “here,” “this site,” and so on
  • the name of your site or the naked URL (mysite.com) of the site

It’s not that you can’t repeat the same anchor text, because you can do that. But if you do it too much, then it can harm your site via a manual Google penalty.

How much repeating the same anchor text is too much? No one knows! Because Google hasn’t given us any official guidelines on this.

That’s why I prefer to try to use unique anchor text each time.

How To Know Which Post or URL To Build Links To

Another thing that might be confusing is, how do you know which posts or URLs to build backlinks to?

The simple answer is to build links to the articles, or URLs, that you want to rank better in Google.

But you have to be careful not to send all of your links to one or a select few posts. And, you’ll also want to be sure that your homepage gets some links.

Ideally, you spread the links out over lots of pages/posts on your site. However, you’ll also want to pay attention to the effect that the links you build have on your site and how it’s ranking in Google.

If you have an existing website, then I suggest popping that domain into Ahrefs or SEMrush and looking for posts that are close to ranking at the top of page one, but that aren’t quite there yet. Then, target your links to those posts.

Then, keep moving down that list to help your posts rise up in the search results.

Sure, that oversimplifies things a bit, but this should give you enough of a foundation to move forward with your link building.

It’s also important to keep in mind that it may take only a couple of days to see the effects of your link building, or it may take up to a couple of months. So, hang in there if you start building links and aren’t seeing immediate results.

How Would I Build Links If I Had A Tiny Budget?

If I didn’t have much money to spend on links each month, then I would focus on getting all of the links on my own.

First, I would make sure that my site looked like something worth linking to. So, clean up the homepage if you need to so that it looks like a professional looking site and not just an affiliate site.

Make sure you’ve got a good About page as well, with a picture, because you’ll need it for the first type of link building I’d do.

Get signed up to receive the three daily emails for HARO link building. And look at those emails for opportunities as soon as you can after receiving them.

Pay for an account at either SEMrush or Ahrefs, if you don’t already have one, so that you can run a backlinks report for your competitors. Honestly, Ahrefs is best for link building, so it’s ideal if you can do their 7-day trial for $7 and run as many backlink reports as you can during this period.

Once you get those backlink reports, go through them one by one and contact the same sites to ask for a guest post or link insertion. And remember, high authority and niche relevant are the best types of links.

Even if you end up having to pay for a lot of those links, it will still be a fuckload cheaper than paying one of the guest posting services to do it for you.

In fact, I recently saw an email that a popular guest posting service accidentally sent out that shared the rates they paid bloggers for the link…along with how much they sold it for…and let’s just say that the markup was more than $200 for some of them. Bloggers and link buyers both getting fucked by this one.

Whoopsie.

How Would I Build Links If I Had More Money Than Time?

Honestly, right now, I’d probably just pay for them through a service that would take care of it for me. On the cheap end, that would be something like Nobs.link or LoveToLink.

And on the higher end, that would be something like Reach Creator. Or even the editorial links.

But, if I was less of a control freak then I would likely take the time to train someone else on doing this and then pay them. Back when I was still living in Vegas this is exactly what I did, but I don’t currently have anyone working for me on my portfolio of sites.

I’d also still do HARO link building, cause it doesn’t take that much time, or I could just pay someone else to handle it for me.

How To Use The NO-BS Marketplace From Nobs.link

If you’ve never used a service like NO-BS (nobs.link) to buy guest posts, then you might be a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start. So, while they have some instructional videos that tell you know to use the service, I’ll show you a few screenshots from my dashboard.

Each site that you want to use with NO-BS is considered a “project.” And here’s what the project dashboard for one of my sites looks like:

no-bs links dashboard

One of the things that I really like about this service is their transparency. They take a flat fee of $79 for each link and they show you how much the site is charging them for the link.

When you find a site that you want to buy a guest post from, you just select it with the dropdown in the “Publisher Feedback” column you see above. You just need to selected “Approve” from that dropdown.

And when you do that, you’re taken to the order screen, which looks like this:

no-bs order form

So, you just fill in the order form and put it in your cart. You can then select the next site that you want to buy a link from, or you can just go to your cart and pay.

The communication from NO-BS tends to be pretty good, so they’ll keep you updated on what’s going on with the site and your guest post link.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been struggling with building links, then I hope this overview helps clear some things up for you.

This article is by no means a comprehensive look at building links, but it should be enough to get you started without getting you into trouble with Google.

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6 thoughts on “How To Get Started Building Backlinks (for Beginners)”

  1. Hey Shawna, your are awesome! I just recently discovered your blog and I really like your stuff.

    Do you still recommend authority builders back links? I wonder because you haven’t mentioned them in this article.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words, Artem!

      While Authority Builders does have a massive collection of sites, this year I’ve only been using NO-BS for guest post purchases. I think NO-BS is likely a better choice to start with since they tend to have lower costs and are a bit more user-friendly.

      Reply
  2. Hey Shawna!

    I appreciate you cranking these posts out! I wanted to know your sentiment on the skyscraper method and it’s overall effectiveness as a link building strategy.

    Most website owners that get approached for link building are either hesitate to work with you or might look for compensation to add your link.

    When it comes to site owners that have links that go to 404 pages and you approach them with something better to replace the link. Are the responses usually favorable to add your link with no compensation or do you feel the responses vary? Also do you feel you have to reach many site owners to even get a response?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • I don’t really do broken link building at all. I’ve had some success with resource page link building without anyone ever asking for money. And I’d say around 30% of people ask for money when I’ve done skyscraper. I think skyscraper can be more effective when you focus on recreating epic content that has a timeliness factor and then contact people with, ‘hey that page you’re linking to is outdated but we’ve got all the latest data here, if you wanna replace that link’. The last skyscraper I did was in January and I’d say I got maybe 35% of people to respond and most of them place the link with no request for money. Sometimes though it’s like 5-10% – just depends on the niche.

      Reply

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