Four (free) ways to build backlinks for SEO

May 25, 2011

There’s no way around it – backlinks matter. But as SEO practices go, building quality backlinks ranks among the most difficult to pull off.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most important page rank factors for search engines like Google.

Essentially, backlinks are created any time an external website posts a link pointing back to your own site. Keep in mind that this can be any of your site’s pages, not just the homepage. Every time this happens, Google interprets it as a “vote” for that particular webpage. The more votes you get, the more link juice is given to your page, and the more likely your page will rise up to the top of Google’s search rankings.

But as with most things in life, it’s not just about quantity – the quality of your backlinks matter too. For example, the juice you get from a popular site in your general coverage area is going to be a lot greater than if you were linked to by some small, independent blog that few people read. And don’t forget that the more people who see your backlink, the better the chances are that someone will click on it (pageviews!) and promote it on his or her site themselves (more backlinks!).

So by now you’ve probably spotted the problem: if the links are on someone else’s site, how the heck do you get them posted there? Certainly, this is where things get tricky. A simple search on the term “backlinks” will give you a bevy of results from online services promising the world in backlinks for an (un)reasonable fee. But the credibility of these companies can’t always be trusted, and the quality of the links they produce is often difficult to measure.

Fortunately, there are some proven ways to build quality backlinks that won’t cost you a dime.

Four Free Methods For Building Backlinks

1. Write guest posts

Sharing unique content is not only a smart content marketing strategy in general, it’s also a great way of generating quality backlinks. Let’s face it – everyone is looking for content these days, and you’d be surprised how many would be interested in having you (or someone in your organization) write for them. Reaching out to popular sites in your particular niche and creating free, unique content is a great opportunity for including backlinks (especially within the text body) pointing to your site.

2. Make friends with influencers

This is sort of the reverse of the first one, but the idea here is to not make backlinks a one-way street. Find influencers in your coverage area and ask them to contribute an article or two for your site. Why would they do this for free? Remember, you’re not the only one who wants backlinks these days. Writing a unique article for other sites and publications is a great way to boost visibility for folks looking to gain more traction as a thought leader in their field. Once you publish an article they’ve written, send them the link and ask them to promote on their site. And don’t forget to offer to return the favor by writing an article for them as well.

3. Comment in forums, not just blogs

I got this one from an excellent post on link building by Glen Allsopp at ViperChill. I already knew that most sites “nofollow” their comment sections, which basically tells Google not to index comment in their rankings (and which makes any backlinks you add there pretty much worthless in search). What didn’t occur to me, however, was that most forums do not have this issue. By finding a popular forum or two related to your target audience, you can not only connect directly with real people, but also provide links of your own in your posts (responsibly, of course).

4. Post your content to social media sites

Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Reddit. The more you get your content out there, the more likely someone will stumble upon it and add a link. Sure, the SEO benefits of linking on social media sites like these are somewhat indirect, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value to it. And don’t take it from me: Matt Cutts himself (Google’s own SEO guru) named social media marketing as one of his top three SEO strategies for 2011.

These are just four techniques, and there are certainly others that can be successful as well. Contributing articles for free directory sites like Ezine Articles is another strategy, similar to the guest post strategy. But of course, the best way to build and encourage more backlinks is to create great content that people will… ya know… actually want to share with others.

Which backlink strategies are your favorites? Have you had success with paid services? Sound off in the comments section below.

Content Strategist

Brendan worked at OpenView from 2011 until 2012, where he was an editor, content manager and marketer. Currently Brendan is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at <a href="">Brainshark</a> where he leads all corporate marketing initiatives related to content, creative, branding, events, press and analyst relations, and customer marketing.