What is link building?
The most important factor for your visibility on Google is the quantity and quality of links from other websites to your website. An inbound link can be perceived as a recommendation of your website, and links therefore give Google a strong indication of how good and relevant the website is.
Links come naturally when people refer to your website of their own free will - but you need to make an active effort to build links to your website if you want your SEO efforts to succeed. In fact, links are so important to your visibility on Google that you often need to devote more resources to your link-building strategy than to both technical SEO and content optimization.
The discipline of building links to your website is called linkbuilding, and in this article I provide concrete approaches on how you can work with link building. I start by showing you how to easily assess your link needs, and then I go through some characteristics of a good link, because the value of a link is not always the same.
In your work on optimising the website, you have - if you have made a keyword analysis - selected a number of pages to work with, each with one or more associated keywords. Your task now is to assess the need for links to each page. The need depends both on the competition for the associated keywords and on how well the page is optimised technically and in terms of content.
If you have a lot of experience with SEO, you probably have an intuitive sense of which pages to build links to. In general, the higher the search volume of the main keyword on the page, the higher the competition and the more demanding your link building work will be. You can rarely achieve a good position on Google without links.
Below, for example, is a summary of the number of websites linking to the top page on Google for ten different random keywords. It is a small and unscientific analysis, but it shows that all the top ranked pages have multiple linking websites:
When assessing your need for links, you can use a combination of two approaches:
- Wait for the effect of your technical and content optimisation of the site. If after a period of 3 months you have not achieved the desired visibility on Google, you need to build links to the page.
- Use an analytics tool to map the number of websites linking to the pages you're competing against. This can give you a good indication of whether you need to build links to the page you want to be visible on Google.
Be realistic if you have few resources: you're wasting both your time and your money if you focus on pages and keywords that you can't possibly gain visibility on with limited resources.
Tools for link building
We primarily use Ahrefs, when working with links and we recommend you to use the same tool (price starts at 99 $ monthly). Alternatively you can buy Majestic SEO or Moz Link Explorer, both of which do much the same thing - the former at a slightly cheaper price.
The tools can be used to map the number of links to your competitors (outlined in section 2 above) and can also be used in link building to build new links to your website and optimise the value of your existing links. The latter will be discussed later in this article, so here is just a brief guide to competitor analysis.
You find your competitors by doing a Google search for the main keyword you want to gain visibility on for each page. Enter the URLs of the top-ranked pages into Ahrefs to see the number of websites linking to the pages. Select 'URL' to the right of the search box, so you'll see the number of websites linking to the exact page you typed, rather than to the whole site:
The number of linking websites is shown at the bottom right of the image after the text 'Live' under 'Referring domains'. In the above example, there are 27 current linking websites to the page. This does not necessarily mean that you need 28 links to outrank the page on Google, as the value of a link varies greatly and factors other than links also come into play.
The total number of links to the page (Backlinks) is not interesting, as multiple links from the same website have minimal added value. On the other hand, the figures UR (page authority) and DR (domain authority) are interesting, as they represent the total value of all links to the individual page and the whole domain, respectively. These figures are a good indicator of where you stand in relation to your competitors. See more linkbuilding tools.
Guide to the good link
There is a big difference in the value of a link. A link from a relevant page with high authority has high value, i.e. high impact on your visibility on Google. An irrelevant foreign language link with low authority has at best no value - at worst it is downright harmful.
In this section I review a number of characteristics of the good link. You should build links to your website that adhere to these characteristics as much as possible. A link rarely complies with all of them, and a link can be good even if it complies with only a few of them.
The good link is a dofollow link
A distinction is made between dofollow-linksthat Google values, and nofollow-linksthat Google typically does not value. Nofollow links have a small piece of code that tells Google to disregard the link (<a href="/en/”www.eksempel.dk”/" rel="”nofollow”">).
There are also two new types of links, which are not yet widely used: sponsored-links (sponsored links in e.g. advetorials) and ugc-links (user-generated links in blog comments, for example). None of these links are valued by Google if they are marked as sponsored (rel="sponsored") or user-generated (rel="ugc") in the source code itself.
Social media links, comment threads and discussion forums are generally nofollow links, preventing users from posting links solely for SEO purposes. From an SEO perspective, these links are therefore worthless and a waste of your time. Most other links are dofollow links.
The good link links to a valuable subpage
Links add value primarily to the page they link to, and to a lesser extent to the website as a whole. Therefore, links to relevant, value-adding sub-pages are generally more valuable than links to the front page, which typically already has many links and a good position on Google.
You should build links to the subpages where increased visibility on Google can provide the most business value. You will naturally find it easiest to build front page links, and if you cannot get a link to a relevant subpage, a front page link is far better than no link.
The good link has thematic relevance to your page
A link from a page with topical relevance to your page has much more value than a link from a page with no topical relevance to the page. At the same time, the link can generate more relevant visitors to your page if it is placed on a page related to your business.
For example, suppose you want to make a page about running shoes visible on Google. In this case, a link from a blog post about good running habits or a link from a running shoe test on the Danish Consumer Council website would be much better than a link from a random page.
It is sufficient that only the specific page on which the link is placed is relevant to your page. In other words, in the example above, it is of little importance that the Danish Consumer Council also mentions a lot of other irrelevant topics on their website.
The good link has a high authority
A link from a trustworthy site with high authority has more value than a link from a site with low authority. However, it is natural to have both high and low authority links, and our recommendation is that you focus more on relevance than on authority.
You can map the authority of a page by entering it in Ahrefs. You will then see a calculated authority (indicated by the text UR) on a scale from 1 to 100. Most sites have an authority score between 5 and 15. Alternatively, you can make a loose assessment of the authority yourself: if the page or the whole website appears untrustworthy, a link from the page is worthless.
The good link is in the same language as yours
Links from pages in the same language as your own are more valuable than links from pages in other languages. It seems unnatural if many foreign language pages link to your website, and it is also inappropriate for foreign users who click on the link to land on an English language page that they are unlikely to understand.
I Ahrefs you can see which countries (or rather domain extensions) that links to your website. Enter your domain name and find the overview at the bottom of the page, complemented by a world map (see below). It is quite normal to have links from foreign language websites. As long as the majority of your links are English (i.e. from .dk domains), there is no immediate cause for concern.
The good link is a contextual link
Links placed in conjunction with textual content are worth more than links that stand alone. The textual content puts the link in context and gives Google an indication of what your page is about and therefore which keywords the page is relevant to show.
In other words, links that are part of an article, blog post, review or similar are more valuable than links that stand alone. Examples of stand-alone links are ad links, menu links and actual lists of links (for example, a bulleted list of partner links).
Links in the footer of a website are largely worthless, partly because they are not contextual, and partly because the footer is placed at the bottom of the website and therefore not considered very relevant. Google itself has previously stated that it does not attach much value to footer links.
The good link has a varied anchor text
Anchor texts is the clickable text that makes up the link - a kind of ad text that creates an expectation of what you're clicking into. At the same time, Google uses the anchor text as an indicator of what the page is about (provided it is not an image link without text). Read more about anchor texts.
The good link is on a unique website
Multiple links from the same website have minimal or no added value - unless it is a large content-rich website with high authority, for example a major Danish media. In other words, it is not the number of links that counts, but the number of linking websites.
The same principle applies whether the links are on the same page or on different pages of the website. Similarly, the more outbound links there are on a page, the less value each link has. Therefore, links from pages with few outbound links are preferable.
The good link is therefore characterised by:
- it is a dofollow link. Don't waste time on nofollow links from social media, comment threads and discussion forums.
- it links to a valuable subpage. Build links to the pages where increased visibility on Google can create the most value.
- it has thematic relevance to your page. Build links from pages that are thematically related to the page you want to link to.
- it has a high authority. Build links from trustworthy and reliable sites.
- it's in the same language as yours. Build links from pages in the same language as your own.
- it is a contextual link. Build links in the context of articles, blog posts, reviews and similar textual content.
- it has a varied anchor text. Vary the anchor text of the links by using keywords, brand names, URLs, generic text and image links.
- it's on a unique website. Don't waste time building multiple links from the same website.
A blog post with a link to your website can meet all the criteria. It couldn't be more difficult!
Natural link building
Link building is not against Google guidelines for webmasters. In fact, Google itself has previously published a marketing guide in which it encourages you to go to other websites and request a link. In return, don't manipulate your links.
Manipulation includes, according to Google itself:
- buying and selling links
- excessive link exchange (i.e. some link to you in exchange for you linking to them)
- large-scale marketing with excessive use of keywords in the anchor texts
- use of automated linking software
- dofollow link requirement as part of a contract or similar.
The above is - according to Google - an unnatural way to get links, and the consequence of many unnatural links can be that you lose the positions you have achieved on Google. However, far from always listening to what Google says, buying links can actually be an effective link-building method if the links are included in a natural way in relevant editorial content (more on this later).
On the other hand, there is little doubt that excessive link exchange, automated link creation and excessive use of keywords in anchor texts is a bad idea. Because unlike purchased links, Google can probably easily identify these methods. If you use these methods, you will find that they may have a positive effect in the short term, but that you will lose your achieved positions later on.
How do you ensure a natural link profile?
The sum of all links to your website is called your link profile. Basically, a natural link profile is a varied link profile. In other words, it is inappropriate to focus on only one link building method and one type of link. It also follows that it can sometimes be rewarding to deviate from the criteria for a good link listed in the previous section.
Variation can be achieved in many ways, including for example:
- with different link types (dofollow or nofollow)
- with different link destinations (front page or subpages)
- with different anchor texts (brand name, web address, search phrase or generic text)
- with different link placements (in a textual context or stand-alone)
- with different time intervals (temporally dispersed).
If you just follow the various link building strategies I outline below, you'll find that variation occurs naturally, both in terms of the design of individual links and the spread of links over time. In other words, variation is not necessarily something you need to pay particular attention to - unless you buys many links at the same time.
Certain links to your website may be potentially harmful links. This typically includes links from sites with illegal content, sites with pornographic content, sites with autogenerated content, sites of very low quality and sites with which it is generally not in your interest to be associated.
At best, links from this type of site have no effect. At worst, they damage Google's rating of your website and therefore your visibility on Google. It may be your competitors who are behind the links (a shady method known as link spamming), but it's probably foreign spammers automatically hitting completely random websites.
Potentially harmful links are actually very common and most websites are affected by them to a greater or lesser extent. They are therefore only of concern if you have a large number of them, in which case you can submit them to Google so that Google disregards them.
You can identify malicious links to your website by entering the website in Ahrefs and click on 'Referring domains' in the menu on the left. You will then see all the websites that link to you. Sort the list by domain authority (indicated by the text DR) and manually review the domains with the lowest authority. Write down potentially malicious domains on a list.
Malicious domains can often be identified by the domain name alone. For example, we have previously seen potentially harmful links from domains such as jzmw.me, virsomheder.work, erotikgaleri.zoxxxo.ru, megaindex.ru, porna.space, danishdirectory.com and many more. If you have the slightest doubt whether a domain is malicious, leave it alone and don't put it on your list.
Submitting malicious links to Google
You can submit potentially harmful links to Google via the reject backlinks (in English disavow links). Please note that this feature is only available if you have created a free Google Search Console account for your website and are logged in to this account.
We recommend that you submit entire domains rather than single links, as this will ensure that you do not get links from the same domains in the future. The procedure is as follows:
- Open a text program (Word, Notepad, TextEdit or similar).
- Enter each domain on a new line, preceded by the text 'domain:'.
- If you want, write comments to yourself by starting a line with the character #.
- Save the file in .txt format with UTF-8 encoding. The file name does not matter.
- Submit the file to Google using the reject backlinks.
For example, the contents of the text file might look like this:
# Three domains to be rejected
You can list an unlimited number of domains in the text file, and you can submit multiple files.
Dead links are links to pages on your website that no longer exist. It is easy and effective to redirect the dead links to an existing page so that you regain the value of the links. Read more about dead links.
Competitor links are inbound links to your competitors' website. They are interesting because those who link to your competitors potentially also have an interest in linking to your website. At the same time, competitor links can give you valuable insight into your competitors' strategies, partnerships, customers and sales channelswhich you can use to improve your own competitive conditions.
You can map links to your competitors using the 'Link intersect' tool in Ahrefs. The tool can be found under the 'More' tab at the top of the page. Enter one or more competitors and your own website in the bottom field, then click the 'Show link opportunities' button. The list of links is sorted so that the websites that link to the most competitors are at the top.
Review each website on the list and assess whether the website is relevant to get a link from, whether the website is likely to link to you, and whether you have any commercial interest in the website other than a link. Then contact the owner of the website with the advice below. The exact location of the link to your competitor can be seen by clicking on the blue number below the competitor.
The following types of websites are not relevant to spend time on:
- Websites in foreign languages.
- Websites owned by the competitor itself.
- Websites with a lot of sponsored content (unless you want to pay for a link).
- News media and blogs (unless you want to pay for a link or have a good story).
- Social media, discussion forums, comment tracks and portals for jobs.
- Link directories, article databases and other low-quality websites.
Good advice for competitor links
- Use your network. You're more likely to get a link if you have a relationship with the person you're targeting - even if it's not a close one.
- Write personally. Don't send the same email to a bunch of different people. Write personal emails and praise those you write to.
- Give something back. Consider what you can offer in return for a link. If necessary, explain what value the link has for those who link to you.
- Create good content. The more exciting and engaging the content on your website, the more likely it is that others will link to it.
- Build relationships. If someone wants to link to you, it's probably because you have a common area of interest. Consider whether this could develop into a lasting relationship in marketing, sales or other commercial activity.
- Be persistent. Don't let a no turn you off. Competitor links require patience, and you can't expect a success rate of 100 %.
Guest blogging is the discipline of writing content for other people's blogs. The benefits are many: You build credibility through knowledge sharing, you make your business visible to new audiences, you build a positive relationship with the people behind the blogs, and you get links to your website.
Guest blogging also creates value for blogs by providing good, relevant content that interests their readers and increases their traffic. It also allows blogs to build a relationship with you, and your brand itself has a positive impact on them.
The blogs you write for should be related to your business as much as possible - links are worth more if they come from relevant sites, and the branding value of blog posts is higher if they are read by people who are part of your customer base.
Find suitable blogs by doing a Google search for business-related topics followed by the word blog, post or guest post. The broader your niche, the easier it typically is to find suitable blogs. Personal blogs typically don't allow you to write guest posts - in that case, the blogger typically writes the post for a fee.
Good advice for guest blogging
- Define the target group. Get to know the blog and its audience. Find an interesting angle for your blog post that will pique the interest of your readers.
- Contact the blog. Contact the blog owner before writing the post. Be honest about your intention and explain what value you can add to the blog.
- Be quality conscious. Write fact-based quality content based on the interests of your target audience. Avoid self-promotional content about your own company.
- Write uniquely. Write unique blog posts to avoid duplicate content. Rephrase content if you reuse content from your own website.
- Observe formalities. Set up the post as an existing post in terms of heading, subheadings, images, sectioning, length, etc.
- Link naturally. Insert a link to your website in the post. The link can be included naturally with a short introductory factual text introducing yourself and your expertise. The link does not have to be part of the blog text itself.
- Reach out widely. Write content for different blogs rather than writing multiple posts for the same blog. Two links from the same blog do not have nearly the same value as two links from two different blogs.
Earned links are links that come naturally because you've earned them. The recipe is simple: create content for your website that is so good that others link to it voluntarily. In practice, however, this requires both skill and persistence, and success rates are typically higher with other link-building methods - especially in the short term, when you have many other link opportunities.
In our experience, the following types of content can be good for generating awareness and publicity, and therefore links to your website:
- Statistics and surveys
- Tutorials and guides
- Free books and digital tools
Contests are not mentioned - they are very shareable, but because contests are usually shared on social media, they are nofollow links with no value. Whatever the content type, it's an advantage if you can relate the content to current news stories, as there is already an interest in the topic and you may also be lucky that the press shows an interest in the content.
Get started with earned links
- Brainstorm. Write any ideas for content that will engage your audience. It's an advantage if the content is also of interest to media and trade publications.
- Prioritise work. Prioritise the ideas. It is important to work on several ideas at the same time to increase the chance of getting links to your website.
- Use your data. Use data as a key asset when working with different content types. Use your network to collect new data and interviews.
- Spread the contents. Share new content on social media and contact relevant media, trade magazines and websites that might be interested in reading the content.
- Evaluate the work. Test different content types and topics and evaluate which have the greatest impact. Remember that impact can be measured by more than the number of links. Sometimes branding and publicity without links is worth more than links.
Partner links are links from companies, organisations and people you have a business relationship with. These links are typically relatively easy to obtain, but in turn are primarily of value if you do not also link to the partners (otherwise it is a case of link exchange). However, there may be many good reasons why you choose to link to your partners anyway.
Examples of partners are:
- Loyal customers
Tell your partners that a link means a lot to you, and try to get them to link to a relevant subpage rather than your front page. At the same time, be aware that a link also has value for partners in terms of their association with your company. If partners ask you to link to them too, don't hesitate to link back. Google is only against excessive link exchange.
Trade associations and networks
Trade associations and professional networks typically want to link to their members. Check whether the associations and networks your company is a member of link to your website. You can do this either by searching for your company on their website or by checking whether their website is included in the list of links to your website in the tool mentioned earlier Ahrefs.
If there is a description of your company on their website, for example in connection with a profile page or member page, you can write a slightly longer description of your company and merge a link to a business-relevant subpage into the description.
Opinions and cases
Offer to write a statement to companies that have done work for you. Everyone welcomes praise and positive publicity and will typically acknowledge it with a link back to your website. You can also offer to be part of a larger case, putting the link into a more valuable context.
Opinions and cases can be used for all the types of partners mentioned above. In addition, web agencies, design agencies, marketing agencies, communications agencies, event agencies and the like who have worked for your company are also obvious candidates.
CRS links are links that form part of a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) effort. In other words, it is a social, environmental and ethical approach to your business activities that you use to build links to your website at the same time. There are several options:
Sponsorships and donations
Many charities, voluntary organisations and events (conferences, festivals and the like) link to their sponsors on the website. Often the sponsorship does not have to be large, so it can be an inexpensive form of link building where you are also doing something good for others.
It is an advantage - but far from always possible - that the sponsorship is relevant to your business. Both because it adds value to the links and because it raises the profile of your business. For example, if you sell wooden garden furniture, you could sponsor sustainable forestry, and if you have a sports shop, you could sponsor local sports clubs.
Check if the initiatives your company supports or has supported link to you. If you are unsure who your company has donated to, do a Google search for your company name in quotes followed by the word sponsor, sponsors, sponsorship or donation.
A labelling scheme is a certification that verifies that your company meets certain requirements. It sends a positive signal to your potential customers and can also have SEO value if the label scheme links to verified members on their website.
The following Danish labelling schemes link to their members:
- The CSR label (csr-maerket.dk)
- e-label (emaerket.dk)
- The GDPR label (https://gdpr-maerket.dk/)
- NoCO2 (ingenco2.dk)
- Minecookies (minecookies.org)
In addition to the above, there are a number of more sector-specific labelling schemes, such as the Danish Indoor Climate Labelling, OEKO-TEX, Green Sprouts and Sustainable Hunting.
Media links are links from news media, social media and advertising media. Some of these links I have already touched on, and others I touch on in the article on purchase of links. Therefore, this section is limited to a few other approaches that can be included in your link building work.
Common to the approaches presented in this section is that they do not have much SEO value. But they can nevertheless expose your business to new audiences and attract visitors to your website, and therefore have particular merit.
The purpose of press releases and PR in general should not be link building. The effort is very rarely worth the return, partly because most media do not want to link to other websites, and partly because any links are typically front-page links, which are worth less than sub-page links.
In other words, you shouldn't write press releases for SEO reasons, but if you do write a press release for other reasons, you might want to include a link in it. We recommend that you write a short fact box about your company in which the link is included with your web address as the anchor text. Links in the press release itself are rarely published by the media.
For example, Danish press releases can be issued:
- directly to relevant media and specialised media
- via ritzau.com/via-ritzau
- via mynewsdesk.com/en
- via press releases.dk
- via press-system.dk
Videos and PowerPoint presentations
If you produce videos for your website (product videos, info videos, etc.), you can also publish them on video platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion. YouTube is Denmark's second largest search engine - after Google and far ahead of Bing.
The same applies if you produce PowerPoint presentations. In this case, you can publish them on file platforms such as SlideShare, Scribd and Issuu. You can also publish them on Dropboxas long as you remember to make the file publicly available.
In all cases, these are nofollow links, so the value is primarily in the exposure of your website. Write a unique description for each video or presentation and link from the description to a relevant page on your website. Avoid reusing the same description on multiple platforms.
Discounts and offers
Discount coupons, promotional discounts and special offers can be an effective way to make your business visible on other websites - even if the links themselves don't have much SEO value. Do a Google search for discount codes and study discount to find link opportunities.
You have now learned a variety of ways to increase the value of your existing links and how to build new, valuable links to your website. One link building method is no better than the others, so variety is the key to your work.
Our experience is that you can easily get a handful of good links. The next handful requires more work, but we promise it's time well spent. A few links to relevant pages on your website can be of great value, even if they represent only a small proportion of the total number of links.
Frequently asked questions
What is link building?
Link building is a term for building inbound links to your website, i.e. building links from other websites to your website.
Why is link building important?
Inbound links are the most important factor for your visibility on Google. An inbound link can be perceived as a recommendation of your website, and links therefore give Google a strong indication of how good and relevant the website is.
How do I work with link building?
There are many different ways to build links. You can get the full overview of the different link building methods in this article.
What does link building cost?
The cost of link building depends on the market you are in and what the competition is. Contact us for a dialogue about your needs and a price estimate.
Can I get help with link building?
Yes, we do link building for many of our clients. Contact us for a dialogue about your business and your needs.
Is link building legal?
In fact, Google itself recommends that you get others to link to your website.
Can link building be harmful?
Improper link building can be harmful in the worst case. At best, improper link building has no effect.
Can free links have value?
Yes, some free links can have SEO value. However, in many cases the value of free links is so minimal that it is not worth the effort.