Backlinks are quintessential elements for creating a successful blog. Being links from external sites to yours, they give your blog an extra boost of traffic, a valuable vote of confidence in the eyes of Google, and plenty of potential new audience members. Below we will explore: how link building can help our blog, how powerful it is, and how many you should shoot for. Grab some coffee ☕️, and let’s get into it!
Pssst… check out my guide on how to make money blogging for a big-picture view.
Backlinks do several things for your blog. They are one of the most important factor of your site’s authority, second only to high quality content. To truly understand and appreciate their power, you should probably understand Domain Authority (DA) and Domain Rating (DR).
What is DA?
Domain Authority was developed by a big-name SEO research company named Moz. It has no direct association with Google, and having a high DA does not guarantee that your site will rank well on Google. With that said, your SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) typically correlate well with the measurement. Generally, an authoritative site will have a higher DA than a less authoritative site.
Moz’s DA estimates a site’s potential SERPs.
Moz is pretty tight-lipped about the details of how DA is calculated, mostly because it is powered by a Machine Learning algorithm. Machine Learning algorithms like this typically calculate things in a way that is difficult for a human to understand completely.
We know that it factors in a few specific pieces of information though, based on guidance from Moz themselves. One important factor is “linking root domains and [the] total number of links” (pulled from their content). Most experts interpret this as meaning backlinks from other important domains.
Moz goes on to say the measurement is taking into consideration all other websites and their associated rankings. The way they explain it is that every site’s DA is in constant flux because their relation to all other sites is in constant flux. Links from any site to any other site, in theory, affect the DA for all sites. This is why link building is so critical to your DA growth.
Pssst… The idea of “broken link building” is one of the best strategies for this. SEMRush has a fairly comprehensive guide to broken link building that is worth checking out!
If a site’s DA is high, then theoretically, the site will have a higher SERP. Since Moz goes out of its way to specifically mention backlinks play a critical role in determining your SERP, and since DA is found to reflect your SERP accurately, we should probably focus on building quality backlinks.
What is DR?
Domain Rating is a similar algorithm, but it is different. It was independently developed by another big-name SEO player called Ahrefs. This measurement focuses on your site’s backlinks and the quality of the domains from which they come. It is meant to reflect the strength of your Backlink Profile.
Ahrefs DR measures the strength of a site’s Backlink Profile, which helps SERPs.
A Backlink Profile describes the web of links that lead to your site. It describes not only the quantity but also the quality. The quality of the link to your website is determined by the Backlink Profile strength of the linking site. That means your Backlink Profile strength is directly related to and influenced by the strength of the profile for all sites that link to yours. Sites with stronger profiles that link to your site affect your DR more than sites with weaker profiles. Likewise, sites that link to your site and have fewer external links will affect your profile more than those with more external links.
Generally, if you have a higher DR, your site will be more likely to rank higher on SERPs. Ranking higher on SERPs means your earnings potential is higher. It follows that with a stronger Backlink Profile, you will have a higher earning potential.
You may have noticed that both measurements weigh the backlinks to your website very high in the overall score. This is a good indicator that backlinks are a major player when calculating your SERPs. That is even more proof that you should be focusing on link building to drive more traffic and exposure for your site in search results.
There are two very broadly defined methods for obtaining backlinks: those that are given to you organically and those that require work from you. The former is less common, while you have complete control over the latter. Let’s talk about both.
In the world of backlinks, there is a unicorn: Organic Backlinks. This type of backlink is not initiated by you and is instead a link offered by another site without any expectation of reciprocation. Someone else was so compelled by your content they decided to cite you in their content. As a reward for creating content they believe in or enjoy, they give you free link juice by providing a backlink.
Organic backlinks require no extra effort but are super rare.
This type of backlink is much preferred to all other types because they do not require anything from you. If you are lucky enough, the link is from a site with very few outgoing backlinks already. This makes that free one worth even more.
One downside about this type is the site giving you the link might be focused on any topic in the world instead of being focused on something related directly to your niche. Unfortunately, this means the backlink might not have the same impact you would expect. Links from an authoritative site having a similar focus are more valuable than those from random other sites.
In an ideal world, other bloggers in your niche would be inspired by you. Then they would all give you unsolicited backlinks. The result of such a phenomenon would be tons of extra DR sent your way, in turn creating higher SERPs without any effort from you. This will mean you appear higher in search results.
On the other hand, you can apply some effort and obtain plenty of them. It does require some work, but you are in complete control (or at least mostly) of who gives them to you. These can be anything from the ones you ask for, to the ones you exchange services for, to the ones you pay for, or to the ones you create for yourself.
In the blogging community, asking for backlinks to your website is somewhat of a faux pas. Anytime you ask someone else to give you something for free, people tend to shoot you the stink-eye. While you can technically do this, I strongly urge you:
Please DO NOT ask for free backlinks!
If you “ask” for backlinks, make sure you are offering something in return, like high quality content including a backlink to their site.
Nobody wants to give a handout. On the flip side, people tend to help others who are helping them already. They tend to reciprocate solely to make themselves not feel bad about getting something for nothing. Basically, when you ask for a backlink, you should at least have already given them one. Realistically though, you should not only give them a complimentary backlink but also offer them something else.
For instance, you might be writing some guest posts soon. You could offer link building for their site in your guest post (or posts) as an incentive for them to help you out. This way, they not only get the free backlink from your site to theirs, but they will also get one from some other high-DR site.
If you already have a strong subscriber list, you could leverage that too. Maybe you offer them that free backlink from your site and a shout-out in your newsletter for a few months. You could also send a transaction email to your subscribers to promote the target site if it fits into the content you would typically transact with them about.
These are just a couple of suggestions. Think about things you already have that you can offer as a supplement to your existing link to their site. Maybe you have a skill or product you can offer them for free (legally, of course). Or perhaps you have some other connections you can leverage, like someone who can promote them on TikTok. The main thing is that you can be a little creative here.
Like many things in our digital world, backlinks are digital products having a monetary value. In fact, buying and selling them is pretty commonplace. If you have money to spend on your blog, you might consider buying some from high-DR sites in your niche. Make sure the sites are in your niche because, remember, context matters. That could give you the extra edge you need for early SERP gains.
According to Ahrefs, the average price for a backlink is $361.44. They also have some pretty good advice on the topic including advice on how to find the right links to buy. Imagine for a moment, one day your blog could have a strong enough DR that smaller sites will be willing to pay $350 for a link. Even with a lower DR, you can still pull in some money for links.
Another way to generate backlinks is to mingle with other sites in your niche and offer to provide a Guest Post. Guest Posts can be very powerful for you. Let’s talk about the power of the Guest Post.
Guest Posts help you build relationships with others in your niche.
First, they give you the opportunity (and justification) to build relationships with other people in your niche. This is important because, being social creatures, humans tend to rely on their connections to other people when forming their own opinions about topics.
Having a vote of confidence from someone else in your focus area signals to end-users that you might know what you are talking about. If someone else guides a user to you, there is a higher likelihood the user will trust what you have to say.
In addition, building relationships is how you will eventually grow your blog into a money-making machine. The more contacts you have in your niche, the more likely you could be exposed to lucrative money-making tips. Maybe you know another blogger that makes money in a way you have never heard of. Simply knowing this blogger could give you access to that new money-making opportunity.
You can use Guest Posts as a negotiation tool when pitching other Guest Posts.
Secondly, when you create a Guest Post, you are typically allowed to include links to resources of your choice. Therefore, in addition to the backlink to your site, you can also give another blog a backlink mixed into your high quality content. This can be a valuable negotiating tool.
When you pitch another Guest Post on a different blog, you can add an extra incentive by leveraging link building in your existing Guest Post pipeline. In addition to writing a stellar Guest Post for their site, you can also mention them in another Guest Post you are writing for another high-DR site. This extra value could be the deciding factor in them allowing you a Guest Post slot on their site.
More Guest Posts build a stronger Backlink Profile.
Finally, more backlinks to your site give you a more impactful Backlink Profile. Remember Ahrefs’s DR measurement usually correlates to how well you will do on SERPs. More links to your site from other blogs in your niche will lead to a stronger DR. That stronger DR usually indicates a potential improvement in your SERPs. With better SERPs, you can expect more organic traffic from search engines like Google.
These are just some of the benefits Guest Posts provide. Doing Guest Posts can require some work. In the end, you will have a bit more power over them. Also, they will be more valuable because you have more control over the context in which they point to your site (and that is important to search engines and readers alike). You can find a ton of information out there on Guest Posts. I highly recommend Adam Enfroy’s blog post about the topic.
How many should you have
As you can see, link building is important. You want to generate as many relevant backlinks to your content as possible. The most important factor for a backlink is the source of the link to your website and the context in which the source references your content.
Adam Enfroy talks about how it took 15 Guest Posts to get about 250 new backlinks. He says this translated into a 12-point DR increase. He went on to say that after about 80 Guest Posts, he raised his DR from 0 to over 70! Rough math on this shows he gained an average of 17 backlinks per guest post. With that in mind, link building about 1300 should earn you gains similar to his.
That sounds like a lot, but Adam said he was able to knock it out with consistent Guest Posting in about 12 months. That does not seem like too much work considering the income it generates for him! $200k / month is no small amount!
How to find Guest Post opportunities
Finding blogs that are looking for Guest Post authors can take time. Some of the steps include: doing your research, reaching out to the editor or content manager, pitching the perfect blog post idea to them, getting a draft approved after multiple rounds of edits, waiting for it to get published, waiting for search engines to acknowledge the Guest Post, and then finally you will see some reward from it. The result is priceless, meaning the work is worth it, despite the delayed realization.
Start by looking for blogs in your niche that accept Guest Posts.
Each niche is different. Sometimes there are a bunch of blogs that want Guest Posters to pitch posts for free. Other times, there are only a few blogs, some of which may require monetary compensation or link building in addition to writing the post. One strategy for finding these blogs is to use Google to find the “best blogs accepting guest posts.” You might need to add some words describing your niche to the query to narrow the search.
Compile a list of contacts
You should compile a list of blogs that meet the following criteria:
- The blog accepts Guest Posts.
- They have a DR that is higher than yours, preferably in the 70s.
- The blog is related to your niche.
- You have expertise that their audience might be interested in.
- A topic you can write about fits into their blog’s niche but also does not already exist on their blog.
After compiling a list of 50-100 potential blogs, you need to be able to contact them. Sometimes finding a person to contact is easy. Other times it is harder. Their site might offer contact information for their editor. If so, record that in your list. If not, you might need to get creative.
Try finding someone on LinkedIn. Search by the company (blog), so you can find employees. Look through the employee list and notate anyone that has a title like “Head of Content,” “Editor,” “SEO Manager,” “Content Manager,” or even just “Content.” Occasionally, you may find someone with a title like “Guest Contributor Relations.” Try to reach out to them via LinkedIn’s messaging.
Once you have the name of a contact, you can try and find their email address using a tool like Hunter.io. That tool will help you determine the email name pattern of their website employees. This will give you the contact’s email address so that you can cold email them a pitch for a Guest Post.
Reach out to the contacts
You now have a list of blogs you want to Guest Post for and contact for each. Next, you need to reach out to each of them. Do not simply ask, “hey can I Guest Post!” This will instantly be slammed into the trash and possibly flagged as spam. Instead, try being more social before pitching.
Start by telling them how much you like their blog. Be sure to mention a piece of content you found on their blog that resonated with you. If they wrote a post that changed your life, tell them that. If you have not uncovered such an inspirational piece of content on their site, try reading more of their site first to validate a relationship with them is a good fit.
Compliments go a long way in opening a conversation.
After complimenting them, tell them you are interested in collaborating with them. If you have already given them some love via a free backlink, mention that too. Try asking some questions that direct the conversation toward a Guest Post. For instance, ask them if they would like to participate in a link building strategy. You could also ask them if they already accept or would be willing to entertain Guest Posts.
To further that conversation, try showing them some of your work. If you already have some Guest Posts in the wild, share links with them and some possible relevant stats to entice them. If not, try to get creative. Point to some of the content on your blog. Or forward a few writing samples from other sources, like social media or published papers. As a fallback plan, you could be honest and tell them you are starting to write Guest Posts. Tell them you are looking for someone willing to give you a chance.
In closing, indicate how excited you are to work with them and that you eagerly await their response. You want to be excited but not desperate. Show them that you want to write something for them and that there are benefits to working with you.
You have options
If all of that sounds like it is a lot of work or you are overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to find Guest Post opportunities, do not fret! There are services out there that can help you find Guest Post opportunities with less up-front work.
For instance, HARO (Help A Reporter Out) connects people who need Guest Posts written to those who can and want to write them. Scan through the list of Guest Post requests to see if any fit your expertise. If any do, reach out.
The conversation should be much easier to start. They are expecting people to reach out about Guest Posting. Also, they have already provided their contact information. The pitch stage should go the same, but you will shortcut the leg work of finding them in the first place. Remember, regardless, you will need to talk to other people to build those valuable backlinks to your blog. Backlinks are best gained through Guest Posts, and Guest Posting requires some work.
Where to go from here
Now you understand how link building can help your blog. You saw how some smart people have created algorithms to estimate how many backlinks will help your SERPs. We talked about the various ways you can obtain backlinks including asking for them, exchanging for them, buying them, and writing Guest Posts for them.
We also dove a bit deeper into how to find Guest Post opportunities. We talked about how to build a list of possible contact that could net you a Guest Post. You were introduced to methods for starting the conversation that leads to a Guest Post. We even shared a third-party service that could help shortcut some of the more complicated steps in this process.
What is next?
It is time to take action!
Try not to get caught up in Analysis Paralysis. You can only plan so much. Even the best-laid plans have aspects that are not accounted for. In Adam Enfroy’s story, he even goes as far as to say that he used to plan every single detail, then when there was a single hitch in the plan, it would cause him to completely derail and abandon the project. Do not fall into this trap.
Remember, you can do this! Building backlinks is not a mystery, as you can see above. You have the tools to do it, so go out there and execute! If you are so inclined, share your story in the comments below!