Inbound links, also called backlinks, are the backbone of search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines were literally built to return results based on the number of backlinks that point to a web page. In simple terms, more links=higher ranking in the results pages. At least, it used to be that simple.
You still need backlinks to gain traction in the search engines and rise to the top of the results pages. However, you can’t just build links to random web pages and expect to get results. The days of blog rolls, webrings, and link farms are over.
Table of Contents
The web pages you link to will affect your entire SEO strategy
You might be wondering which pages are ideal for backlinks. Your homepage? Internal blog pages? What about individual product pages or product category pages?
Although there are only a handful of page types you can link to, the pages you choose for your backlinks will affect the outcome of your entire SEO strategy. For instance, build backlinks to the wrong pages and you’ll decrease conversions while increasing your bounce rate. Build backlinks to the right pages and you’ll gain loyal visitors and generate sales.
While building backlinks to any of your web pages will help your overall ranking, backlinks pointing to certain pages pull more weight than others.
Before getting into the nitty gritty of which pages to link, let’s dive into why backlinks matter in the first place.
What is link building and how does it help my website?
Although backlinks aren’t the only ranking factor, search engine algorithms prioritize web pages that have an abundance of backlinks over web pages that don’t have many backlinks. Prioritized web pages are generally delivered higher in the search results.
The basic concept is that search engines view web pages with more backlinks as more valuable to users than pages without many backlinks. Web pages with poor quality content won’t naturally generate many backlinks.
On the other hand, if a given web page gets thousands of links, that page likely contains high-quality content.
A link building strategy continually increases the number of inbound links that point to your website from external sources (i.e., other websites). Backlinks can be acquired naturally when people choose to link to your content or they can be acquired through guest posting, content marketing, or through business citations.
How do backlinks work?
Backlinks work by generating link equity (also called “link juice”) for your web pages. As you generate more links to a given page, your link equity grows along with your power to rank higher in the search engines. The more ranking power you can generate for your web pages, the more likely those pages will show up higher in search results.
Ideally, you want to obtain “dofollow” backlinks. “Nofollow” is a hyperlink relation attribute appended to links when the webmaster doesn’t want search engines to pass link equity. Nofollow links won’t help you rank, but they can generate traffic if your content is good.
While link building can help your website rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs), you have to be intentional with your strategy. You need to know which pages to build links to, which pages to focus on heavily, and which pages to leave out.
What web pages should I build backlinks to?
The short answer is that you should build links to all content-rich web pages with a few exceptions discussed below. You should also focus more heavily on certain pages than others. However, how you build backlinks will differ depending on the page being linked.
Web pages can be broken down into the following general page types:
Product category pages
Blog category pages
Tag category pages
Targeted landing pages
Some of these page types aren’t optimal for backlinks. The pages that do make optimal backlink targets will require different types of content and anchor text. For example, if the target page is a blog post your anchor text should describe the content. However, if the target web page is a product, your anchor text should encourage readers to buy your product.
How are backlinks published on the web?
If you’re following current SEO strategies you’ll be generating the majority of your backlinks through content marketing. An effective link building strategy through content marketing can be broken down into 3 basic steps.
Step 1: Determine your goal for generating backlinks to a given web page
You want backlinks to increase your rank in the search engines, but each backlink has the potential to reach an audience differently.
Do you want to educate visitors and generate returning traffic? Link to your educational content.
Do you want conversions (i.e., video plays, sales, leads)? Link to your product or sales pages.
Each of these are good reasons to build backlinks to your content and you’ll want to generate backlinks with both of these goals in mind. However, remember that some web pages are more suited for generating returning traffic than conversions, and vice versa.
Once you’ve identified your goal for each backlink you need to think about how you’ll create the content that will contain your backlink. Keep in mind that this is the content that will be published on someone else’s website.
Step 2: Determine the type of content most appropriate for each backlink
With content marketing, your backlinks will be published in articles on other people’s websites. If you hire a content marketing firm you can get your articles professionally written. Otherwise, you’ll have to write them yourself.
When it comes to content, you’re probably wondering:
Should you write long or short articles?
Do your articles need to be perfect?
Should you use technical jargon in your articles or speak to a general audience?
These are important questions to ask. The answers depend on your goal. Remember, your article will be published on someone else’s website so your content needs to be appropriate for their audience.
For instance, if you’re aiming to get an article published in a highly technical online journal with a highly technical audience, it’s okay to use industry jargon and write extensive content. However, if you’re aiming to get your content published on a more general website with a wider audience, keep your content less technical and more explanatory.
If your goal is to capture email addresses or generate sales when people click your link, write content that encourages readers to visit your website. And make sure your web copy is written by a professional copywriter who has mastered persuasive writing.
If your article is intended to inform or educate people who aren’t ready to buy, to bring them to your website to move them through your funnel, write your content for a general audience in a way that will keep them reading.
Step 3: Determine where to publish your content
In general, it’s best to publish your content on websites related to your industry or niche that maintain a professional presence online. A backlink published on a website that has nothing to do with your subject matter won’t give you the boost you want. Search engines know when backlinks are presented out of context.
For example, if you sell coffee and get a backlink on a dog training website, you might get a small boost, but it will be insignificant compared to getting a backlink on a coffee-related website.
How to link to content designed to generate repeat traffic
Some of your web pages will be ideal for generating repeat traffic. This is content that gives people a small taste of a bigger picture; content that makes them want to come back for more.
When building backlinks to this kind of content, it doesn’t matter where your links are published as long as they’re published on high-quality websites related to your industry.
Crafting anchor text for target content designed to generate repeat traffic
Content designed to inspire, intrigue, or otherwise capture attention is the best target for generating returning traffic. To get people to click, craft your anchor text as an actionable directive like “visit this site for resources on [topic]” or “learn more about [topic] here.”
Some more anchor text ideas for getting clicks:
Click here to learn more about [topic]
Read this guide published by [brand name]
Review this analysis published by [website name]
See what [expert] has to say on [website]
This article explains [subject] in more depth
There are an infinite number of ways you can word your anchor text. The point is to directly encourage people to click on the link.
How to link to content designed to generate conversions
Some of your web pages will be ideal for generating conversions. These pages should be linked within content that encourages people to click on your link. The easiest way to get people to click on your link is to create shocking, interesting, or cutting-edge content. However, don’t use clickbait titles. Don’t promise something shocking unless you really have shocking content to share.
Remember that when a reader clicks your link in an article, what they’ve read in that article will frame and influence the way they view the content on the web page where they land. Rather than just writing a paragraph telling readers to click on your link, use the opportunity to get the reader excited or inspired about your content so they’re already in a positive frame of mind when they arrive on your site.
You’ll generate more email signups than sales from your backlinks, but that’s why you’re collecting email addresses – so you can continue marketing to your readers until they become paying customers.
Crafting anchor text for target content designed to convert
When your backlinks point to a web page with content designed to convert readers, the most important thing is crafting anchor text people want to click. The content on your web page will determine whether or not each visitor converts, but people have to click first.
Use actionable, directive anchor text combined with a brief teaser of what readers will find when they click the link. Describe the general idea of the content without giving everything away and get readers interested in learning the rest of the story by clicking the link.
For example, say you’ve written the ultimate guide to seamlessly editing backgrounds out of photos and you’re linking your ultimate guide in an article written for photography professionals. Introduce the concept of editing out backgrounds in a way that makes readers nod their heads in agreement and then briefly suggest you’ve cracked the code to simplifying the entire process.
Rather than explaining the process from your guide, encourage readers to click the link to read your guide.
Make sure to avoid using exact match anchor text for your keywords. If you have too many exact match anchor text instances, Google will recognize that as an artificial backlink profile.
How to link to content designed to educate or inform
Content designed to educate or inform the reader is your biggest asset for link building. Informative content naturally ranks higher in the SERPs because people are always looking for information.
Examples of educational content titles:
How to Improve Your SEO Rankings in 90 Days
How to Generate Organic Ready-to-Buy Traffic to Your Website
How to Split Wood Without an Axe or a Hatchet
The Entrepreneur’s Ultimate Guide to Working Securely from Home
Building backlinks to educational content is easy. First, make sure your content contains some or all of the following to make it authoritative and link-worthy:
Recent, relevant statistics cited from the original source
Unique information about your topic or a new perspective
Some kind of appeal to authority like a quote from a professional or expert in your niche
Links to scientific studies and research
You want all of your educational content to be well-supported by statistics, facts, scientific research, or validated by an expert. Strong support for your content makes your web page more authoritative, which makes your backlink less likely to be removed at a later time.
A well-written, thoroughly researched educational article is also a great option for the Skyscraper Outreach Technique. This is a technique where you create an enormous piece of highly valuable content and create internal links to your commercial pages within the content. Then, you get industry experts and influencers to link to your page.
While this indirect method of link building won’t pass much (if any) link equity to your commercial pages, it will help you get your content linked on websites that won’t publish commercial backlinks.
Crafting anchor text for target content designed to educate/inform
You have the most freedom to create anchor text for content designed to educate or inform. Some of the best ways to word anchor text includes:
Using the page or article’s title as anchor text
Using general anchor text
Using highly descriptive anchor text
Using a partial phrase match
Crafting anchor text from an existing part of a sentence and modifying it to be directive
Not all web pages are link-worthy
While most web pages make sense to link, other pages should never be linked. Here’s a breakdown of the types of web pages you should generate backlinks to – and the pages you should ignore.
Should I build backlinks to my homepage?
Short answer: yes.
Websites naturally generate homepage links, so if you have a lot of links to your blog posts and no homepage links, your backlink profile will appear unnatural to the search engines. This might send up a red flag.
Although you should build backlinks to your homepage, make sure you don’t build too many links. Homepages usually account for between 40-60% of backlinks, so focus primarily on building backlinks to content-rich internal pages.
Aside from content marketing, getting business citations is the easiest way to get free homepage links.
Should I build backlinks to my contact page?
Short answer: no.
There’s almost no reason to build backlinks to your contact page. Unless paired with another link, contact page backlinks are wasted backlinks.
When you want people to contact you for a free consultation or sign up for a demo, it’s tempting to link to your contact page. However, that won’t generate as many calls as you might think. Your article would have to be extremely convincing to get readers to contact you that fast.
Realistically, visitors will want to browse your website for a bit to learn more about your services before contacting you. This means you don’t want your backlinks to go to your contact page. Don’t make first-time visitors hunt for the information they need to assess your services – link directly to a content-rich page that will tell visitors all about your services.
Don’t send first-time visitors to a boring contact page. Put amazing content in front of all first-time visitors. You get one chance to show visitors who you are and if all they see is a contact form, you’ll lose a lot of potential leads.
Use your backlinks to link to a page that will impress your visitors or tell them more about your company. As long as your contact link is clearly visible on your website, interested visitors will contact you to learn more.
Should I build backlinks to individual product pages?
Short answer: sometimes.
You have to be careful and selective when building backlinks to product pages. You’ll have a difficult time finding high-level, reputable publishers who will allow product backlinks in guest posts. However, it’s different when you’re working with a marketing agency.
Marketing agencies have existing relationships with publishers and can usually get your product backlinks published as long as your product is relevant to the publisher’s audience.
Working with a marketing agency doesn’t mean you can publish spam, but when your content is high-quality, publishing partners generally allow some commercial links.
As a general rule, the better your product, the easier time you’ll have getting backlinks to your product pages. Just don’t be surprised if your links get rejected by some publishers.
Should I build backlinks to my services page?
Short answer: sometimes.
Pages describing your services are considered commercial and might be rejected by publishers. With that said, some publishers don’t mind commercial links as long as the content containing the link is high-quality and valuable to the site’s existing audience.
Build backlinks to your services page whenever possible, but focus more on your internal blog pages. You can even write blog posts that encourage people to check out your services page. For the most part, backlinks that lead to blog pages tend to stick around much longer than links pointing to commercial pages.
Should I build backlinks to category pages?
Short answer: not usually.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with building backlinks to category pages, but you’ll lose a significant amount of marketing power. For example, when you send someone to a web page, ideally, you want the content on that page to engage the visitor immediately and get them to take a specific action.
You don’t want new visitors to land on a page where they have to decide where to go next. Sending visitors to category pages creates an extra step for the visitor. Effective marketing eliminates the need for users to make decisions and puts targeted content directly in front of them.
If you want sales, leads, and repeat traffic, you’re better off linking to specific posts or products. However, you might find it useful to direct readers to a specific post or product category in an informational article.
Should I build backlinks to my PPC landing pages?
Short answer: not usually.
PPC landing pages are designed to generate traffic from sources like Instagram, Google, or Facebook. The ads are programmed to display only for a specific, targeted audience.
With content marketing – the backbone of link building – you’re putting your links in front of a more general audience. Your traffic will be somewhat targeted in a general niche, but nowhere near as specific as what you can achieve with your PPC campaign.
Since landing pages are crafted to appeal to a specific audience, general traffic will have a hard time relating to the content. That means a higher bounce rate and a lower conversion rate. The additional traffic from other sources will also make it difficult to track the efficacy of your PPC campaign. And with a higher bounce rate caused by untargeted traffic, you’ll struggle to pinpoint the changes you need to make to improve your campaign.
To maintain the integrity of your PPC campaign’s analytics, it’s critical to avoid building backlinks to a landing page connected to an active PPC campaign.
If you decide to end your PPC campaign, it wouldn’t hurt to build backlinks to those pages. However, few publishers allow backlinks to landing pages. Even when a publisher allows backlinks to landing pages today, they might change their mind in the future and remove your link.
At the end of the day, skip building backlinks to your landing pages unless they’re designed to look like informative web pages (as opposed to looking like a sales page or squeeze page).
Should I build backlinks to my ‘about’ page?
Short answer: not usually.
If you have a dynamic and inspiring story on your ‘about’ page, then you’ll definitely want to build some backlinks for that page. People love reading inspiring stories and it can be a great way to build brand awareness, boost your reputation, and make your philanthropic efforts publicly known.
Readers might click on your backlink to read your story in full if it’s really that interesting. However, if your content isn’t inspiring or noteworthy, don’t link to your ‘about’ page.
7 Tips for building strong backlinks
The following tips will help you build a strong backlink profile.
1. Be picky with your sources
If you were offered free links on a website that had nothing to do with your content, would you take it? Most people would. A link is a link, right? Not so much.
Google and other search engines know when a backlink is not related to the content on the website and won’t pass as much link equity to unrelated sites.
Instead of pursuing easy links, focus on getting your content published on websites in your industry. Create content that contributes something useful or helpful to your target audience. When you focus on your industry, more people will want to publish your content.
2. Keep track of your backlinks
When you’re building backlinks, keep track of every backlink you generate. This will help you in the future if you move any of your web pages.
To make your job easier, only build backlinks to web pages you don’t plan on deleting or moving. If your content isn’t developed yet, wait to build your backlinks.
If you have to move web pages or redesign your website using a new content management system, your URL structures will likely change. This will make your backlinks turn up 404 errors.
For ideas about where you might be able to get some backlinks, find out where your competitors got their backlinks. You might be able to secure some backlinks by reaching out to the owners of those websites.
Value should always come first. Focus primarily on delivering value with the content that delivers your backlinks. Your content should be in-depth, specific, and aimed at a niche audience.
General content is not only boring, but it makes people feel like you’ve wasted their time. Spend enough time on your content to provide interesting and unique insights or solutions that your target audience wants to read about.
5. Avoid complex link building schemes
There are all kinds of link building schemes out there and none of them are good news. If you’re not building links legitimately, and you have to use tricks, those backlinks will probably work against you. If not now, then in the future.
For example, one link building scheme involves finding broken links pointing to expired domain names on authority sites like Forbes.com or CNN.com. The idea is that you can buy the expired domain names and recover the link juice by:
Recreating the URLs with new content
Set up 301 redirects to your main website
Sell the links to other people by redirecting the formerly broken link to their website
It’s no longer a strong SEO strategy like it was 20 years ago
There’s only one good reason to buy expired domains and redirect them or recreate content: traffic.
You should consider buying expired domain names to recover broken links only if those broken links are embedded within high-quality content likely to produce high volumes of traffic from sources you can’t possibly get backlinks from and the content is relevant to your industry or area of expertise.
There are many other link building schemes, but they’re all basically the same – a dead end for SEO.
6. Avoid article directory websites
Article directories become saturated with low-quality content very fast. The entire purpose of an article directory is to serve as a link farm disguised as a directory.
There are no high-quality article directories because publishing quality content requires time and effort. Article directories, by nature, are designed to pump out content in large quantities.
Also, article directories don’t get much power in the search engines and don’t have much (if any) link equity to pass on to other websites.
7. Work with a professional content marketing agency
Building strong backlinks isn’t easy when you’re working alone. There aren’t enough hours in the day for you to create your content, manage your strategy, review reports, measure your progress in the search engines, analyze your traffic, and determine which adjustments to make.
Link building is a team effort and at Link.Build, we want to help you build a strong backlink profile that boosts your rank in the SERPs and generates targeted traffic to your site. Our team of SEO experts will handle everything – we’ll even help you define your goals and create a customized strategy to increase your domain authority organically.
Ready to take your backlink strategy to the next level? Contact us today and tell us about your project so we can help you get the rankings and traffic you deserve.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International.
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.