Obtaining inbound links to your site is one of the most powerful ways to gain authority and overtake your weaker competitors.
Web masters who don’t build links leave themselves vulnerable.
I love it when I find a website with DA6 and 25,000 pageviews per month. It means I can target all of their top keywords. I know with good on-page SEO and a few backlinks I can steal all of their SERP positions.
The trick is to NOT be that guy with DA6.
You want to be the guy with at least enough backlinks coming into your site that:
- You’re competitive for semi-difficuly keywords AND
- you’re protected from new competitors coming into the niche.
Inbound links are like a moat around your website. They protect your SERP positions from lower quality competitors!
Link Building for Little Guys (Ultimate Guide)
1. Why Build Links?
An inbound link is a vote of confidence in your website from other websites around the internet. The more websites that link to you, the more important your website is in Google’s eyes.
Inbound links correlate with higher rankings.
This is a core piece of Google’s algorithm and it’s baked in – this is never going to change. The reason Google is so superior to Yahoo, Dog Pile, Duck Duck Go, Bing or any other search engine is that it’s powered by an algorithm that promotes sites with healthy inbound link profiles.
2. Why NOT Build Links?
Link building is not “illegal” (although people love to claim this). But it is against Google’s terms of service.
This is because Google sees inbound links as a ranking factor. They want to rank sites that naturally obtain links.
But naturally obtaining links ain’t easy!
In fact, it’s near impossible in your first few years of a site.
Google has manually penalized sites in the past for obtaining links that appear unnatural.
Fortunately they don’t seem to be doing manual penalties nearly as much these days. Instead, they tend to stealthily devalue inbound links from sites that appear to be “link farms”.
So, don’t get links from link farms! Instead, get high quality inbound links that appear natural.
I’m not guaranteeing it will fully protect you, but getting good quality links still works and if they appear natural, it will help protect you against the Big G’s wrath.
3. I’ve got a Small Niche Site. How many Links Should I Build?
Personally, I aim to build enough links to achieve DA20 from Moz. In my opinion, this is the entry fee for ranking for semi-competitive keywords.
If you use a good outreach service (like the one I discuss later), this will account to between 24 and 30 quality links pointing to your site.
DA20 is enough to rank for pretty competitive keywords, so long as your on-page SEO is also strong.
For example, I have an affiliate site that has DA18:
For this site, I spent about $1500 and obtained 18 high quality backlinks. That was enough to rank me for longtail keywords against big competitors like Gear Hungry, The Spruce, and Wirecutter.
The site ranks for one competitive keyword, for example, that sells over $26,000 worth of one specific product on Amazon (total sales).
Overall, the site regularly makes me close $5000 in affiliate commissions per month. Here’s my commissions from the last 30 days on this site alone:
Of course, I also used high quality on-page SEO and strong topical relevance across my site. But those links were an invaluable factor in being able to compete.
4. What does a Good Inbound Link Look Like?
There are two main metrics to look out for to determine if a site is healthy to get a link from:
- Domain Authority – At least DA 25 is good
- Domain Traffic – At least 1000 visitors per month
(Topical relevancy – i.e. they’re in the same niche – is nice, but beyond the scope of this discussion).
A website with high Domain Authority can pass a lot of link juice. But personally the more important factor is domain traffic.
It’s widely accepted today that good inbound links are from domains that are getting at least 1000 visitors per month according to SEM Rush or aHrefs.
This is because sites that are getting traffic from Google are considered to be in Google’s good graces.
Google isn’t penalizing them, so it’s a sign that links from that site also won’t have any penalties attached.
To see the traffic metrics of a site, sign up for a free account with SEM Rush. Then, you can see the domain level traffic metrics of any site. Here’s the domain level traffic for the domain everythingzoomer.com.
Notice that it’s getting 111,600 visitors a month (and SEM Rush usually underestimates this) AND it’s got a nice healthy traffic growth curve:
Personally, I think an inbound link from this site would be awesome.
5. When Should I Start Building Links?
I start building links once my site has reached 1000 page views per month.
At this point, it’s reasonable enough that I’ve got enough traffic to justify people linking to my site.
This usually occurs between months 4 and 8.
6. How Many Links should I Build Per Month?
Once I start a campaign, I build 6 links per month for 5 months. It’s the cost of entry into most niches, unfortunately. And because I write most of the content myself, this is the main cost outlay I have for all my new sites.
After I’ve built 30 links, I’m happy to drop off to 3 links per month.
7. Where Should I Point my Links?
There are more complicated answers to this (see Matt Diggity’s ‘Black Sheep’ concept). But a simple answer for little guys that’ll keep our sites looking nice and natural is:
- 2x links to each money page
- Split your links 33% homepage, 33% inner info pages, 33% money pages
Six to nine months after landing those links, if your page still isn’t ranking, you’d want to re-check all your on-page SEO, site architecture, and potentially check out some of Matt Diggity’s literature (above) to get the page unstuck.
8. What Should my Anchor Text Be?
I recommend partial match anchor text. For example, if you want to link to the page with the keyword “best coffee grinder”, your two links can be:
- … “a quality coffee grinder” …
- … “coffee is prepared by grinding it” …
Again, this is a simplified answer and there are much more complex answers for hardcore link builders, but it’s enough to get you started (remembering that this is an introductory guide for beginners).
9. How can I Get Links Manually?
The easiest way to manually outreach for links is to:
- Find who’s linking to your competitors.
- Outreach to those sites and ask for a link to yourself also.
It’s that simple – allow your competitors to do the hard work of link prospecting, then swoop in and get the link as well!
If you’re manually outreaching, expect people to ask for $50 to $100 for a link placement fee. Then, negotiate them down to $25 – $50 which is about industry standard right now.
To find out who’s linking to your competitors, simply use Moz Bar for Google Chrome – it’s free!
First, type in your target keyword. For this example, I’m using “best coffee grinder”. The SERPs here are full of some tough competitors, but in amongst them is a small nice site called homegrounds.co. I’m sure he must have bought some links to be ranking ABOVE nytimes.com (formerly Wirecutter):
So, I clicked on his Moz Bar button that reads “330 links” to find out. Don’t worry – he didn’t build over 300 links. Most of them are probably nofollow junk links that won’t help him rank. We’ll sift through the junk in a moment.
Moz Bar took me to this page, which showed how many unique domains are linking to the page:
Here, I clicked on ‘Inbound Links: 330’ (the big blue 330 above). Then, I filtered by ‘follow’ links (nofollow links are no good for passing link juice):
Then I scrolled down to see if I could find a linking domain that looked like it might be a link that was placed through outreach. I found this site:
Going to the page, I felt pretty confident that I could outreach to this website and land a link. The site’s traffic and domain authority looked strong:
- Traffic per month according to SEM Rush: 30,500
- Domain Authority according to Moz: 66
So, I scrolled down to their ‘Contact Us’ page and composed an email to their web master:
I noticed that you’re linking to a competitor of mine, homegrounds.co. I wanted to get in touch with you today about whether you accept Guest Posts or Niche Edit placements on your site? I’d love to also receive an inbound link from your site.
For example, a niche edit on this post: https://bitrebels.com/technology/technology-worlds-best-coffee-grinders/ would be lovely.
Of course, I’d also be very happy to submit a guest post.
Do let me know your terms so we can negotiate a mutually agreeable deal.
That’s a pretty upfront email … you can try to weasel your way in with a free guest post, but I find chances of landing one are slim. So I go straight for the no-nonsense but polite “Hey, hope you’re having a good day. Just wondering if I can get a link? Happy to negotiate.” strategy.
(I didn’t send this email because I’m not in the coffee niche, this is just an example of how to outreach).
Expect 10% – 20% success rate, and of course a fee. So you’d need to do about 50 of these emails per month. Expect to be spending:
- 20 hours a month
- Paying $200 a month for about 6 links
It’s HARD WORK doing your own outreach.
That’s why I outsource.
10. How can I Outsource my Link Building?
I’ve tried a lot of link building services including RhinoRank, The HOTH and NaturalLinks.io.
Personally, I prefer using my own outreach guy. Just like buying content, it seems to me that the best quality comes from individual freelancers rather than agencies.
Freelance outreach people:
- Are cheaper than agencies
- Get better quality links than agencies
I’ve got an outreach guy who does 6x links for me per month for $500.
I’m not an affiliate for him, he’s just a friend!
My guy is way cheaper than the link farms and his links (guest posts and niche edits) are from better quality sites overall.
Look at these recent campaigns he did for me. Notice the really healthy traffic metrics on these domains:
You don’t get links from domains that healthy when you use an agency. And agencies are WAY more expensive. With The HOTH, you’re looking at spending at least $300 – $500 PER LINK for some of those links above. For me, they came to about $87 per link.
My outreach guy is looking for a few more clients at the moment. If you want his email address, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share his contact details.
11. What about the Shotgun Skyscraper Technique?
I haven´t covered this technique here, but I´ll be experimenting with it in 2021 and will have more information about this technique coming soon.
12. What about HARO?
HARO stands for help a reporter out. It’s a service that links you up with reporters. The reporters ask you questions, you answer them, and in exchange you get an inbound link to your site.
HARO is AMAZING for authority sites. I use it regularly and get amazing results. But it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s hard to get HARO links unless you’re an authority in a topic. If you’re building a small Amazon Associates niche site, chances are you won’t have much luck with HARO.
Link building isn’t for everyone. You need an appetite for a little bit of risk. But it remains an effective way to get into semi-competitive keywords, earn money faster, and fast track your way to a full-time income.
There ARE risks associated, primarily: your money may go down the drain if you’re not buying healthy links, and Google MAY penalize you (although they seem to do manual penalties far less often these days).
For me, I have a mix of domains that get links and others that are “no link building” domains.
If you do choose to build links, remember to get links from sites with healthy traffic metrics according to SEMRush. And when you’re ready to outsource your link building, get in touch and I’ll hook you up with my outreach guy.