The CMO’s Guide to the ‘New’ Link Building Strategy in Less Than 5 Minutes

Links and linking for SEO.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Even though the Google ranking algorithm has significantly progressed over the years, links still matter for a website to rank.

But the way Google looks at links has changed. And the way businesses should approach link building must also change. We are in the era of link earning, not link building.

To protect your website from links that could harm your ability to rank and go after the links that matter, you need to know how to earn them. We go in depth on this topic in our newly released guide “The New Link Building Manifesto: How To Earn Links That Count,” which you can download instantly here.

In this article:

Links: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Link popularity is not a numbers game anymore. More important than the quantity of your backlinks are the quality and relevance of the links and the sites where those links are coming from.

Google’s John Mueller confirmed this:

We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much should we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all. Because you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.

If relevant, quality sites with favorable comments link to you, then your site becomes a more trusted authority by association. So you want the best sites, not the most, linking back to you.

Before you engage in any link building program, be sure you know what types of links to look for and which to avoid:

  • Good backlinks: Links from authority websites in your field, experts who write about your topic, or non-spammy sites that have content related to your website’s theme or webpage’s subject.
  • Bad backlinks: Links from unrelated websites (for instance, a dog information website linking to an insurance site) don’t do you any good and could look unnatural.
  • Ugly backlinks: Links coming from link farms, spam sites, sites known to sell links, guest posts or low-quality content (such as pages with lists of random links and no text).

Backlink Strategies to Avoid

As the CMO, you probably get tons of emails offering you links for a price. Steer clear of those! Unnatural linking schemes can only hurt your brand and your website rankings. So avoid the following tactics for obtaining backlinks:

  • Sending mass email requests
  • Participating in link farms
  • Purchasing links
  • Getting links by guest posting in most cases
  • Getting site-wide links (such as from a footer link on an external website)
  • Having links from irrelevant or disreputable websites

Note: Paid links identified clearly as ads and nofollowed are fine. They don’t pass link value, but advertising and promotions have value for other reasons.

How to Start a Link-Earning Program

Today, the right way to obtain backlinks is by earning them naturally. Here are three steps to get started with a link earning program:

  1. Benchmark your website’s link profile.
  2. Build the link-earning program.
  3. Monitor backlinks and prune as needed.

1. Benchmark the Link Profile

Begin with a benchmark of how your website is currently doing. I suggest you use two or more tools to gather your backlink data into a spreadsheet you can then look at. You can use tools like Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Majestic Site Explorer, Moz’s Link Explorer, Ahrefs and/or SEOToolSet. You’ll know what you are currently dealing with and if you need to prune any links (see Step 3).

2. Build the Link Earning Program

A link-earning strategy should involve several tasks. At a high level, these include:

  • Analyzing links
  • Finalizing keywords
  • Creating content
  • Making search engines aware
  • Publicizing and sharing content
  • Using link attributes properly
  • Attracting links

Creating quality content is arguably the most important step in this process, followed by getting that content in front of the right audience. This is something we go into more detail on in the e-book linked above and below.

3. Monitor Backlinks and Prune as Needed

Once you’ve started earning links, you’ll want to maintain your link profile. The general process for this includes:

  1. Monitor backlinks to your site – Who’s linking to me?
  2. Evaluate your link profile – What makes a bad backlink?
  3. Remove unwanted backlinks by “link pruning” – How do I get rid of bad links?
  4. Use Google’s Disavow tool – What’s my last resort if they won’t cooperate?

How to Create Content That Gets Relevant Links

As a rule, you want to create quality, valuable content for users. This type of link-worthy content fuels your link earning program.

Keep in mind that expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) are three principles upon which quality content is created, according to Google.

E-A-T is important for most websites, but for “Your Money or Your Life” topics (those that Google says “could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”), it is critical. You can learn more about that here: Complete Guide to the Fundamentals of Google’s E-A-T

When you have great content people want to share, earning links comes more easily. Of course, there are a lot of ways you can get that content in front of the right audience. And we have 50 ideas for you in the e-book that you can download above or below.

E-book on link building by Bruce Clay Inc.

Moving from Link Building to Link Earning

Modern SEO ditches the old link building tactics that merely collect a mass of irrelevant links.

Today, we must focus on quality over quantity. So center your link-earning program on great content and creative marketing.

For more on linking, get our comprehensive guide: The New Link Building Manifesto: How To Earn Links That Count

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (10)
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10 Replies to “The CMO’s Guide to the ‘New’ Link Building Strategy in Less Than 5 Minutes”

very much impressed by the artwork

A good advice and a good adviser is very important in life. thanks brother for sharing this helpful post

All mentioned strategies to build links are of great information, I would like to know on an average how much does a blog author charges for outbound link from his/her blog?

Robert Stefanski

Hello, thanks for your question!

The idea of selling links should apply to sponsored or advertising links only and be clearly marked as such. Any blog author that sells links promising to pass PageRank value is violating Google guidelines. It won’t be long before the search engines detect this and discount or penalize the hosting site and possibly the link-buying site as well. As for prices, don’t bother shopping around for those as they will be a waste of money.

Hope this helps!

Hello Team,

Do you have any reference links to learn about outreach? I heard that it will help to enhance organic visibility on Google and other search engines. It will also help to attract more qualified traffic.

Hi Yvette,

I would argue that blog posting is actually THE best backlink building strategy. However, the effectiveness of the strategy will depend on the value of the content in your blog posts. As mentioned in this article, great content will earn high value links. Well… one of the most efficient ways to produce great content is to do it via blog posts.

Also worth mentioning… when thinking about value, it’s better to focus on quality of content vs. volume / frequency of content. For example, one long form (2,000 words plus), informative, and well researched blog post would attract more high quality links than 20 low value / low content level blog posts.

I hope this is helpful

Paula Allen

Bipper: You added a good point that with content production too, one quality page beats many low-quality ones. Thanks for contributing here.

Great article thanks. If I understood you correctly, blog posting is not a recommended baclink strategy. For several years I have been hearing the opposite. Kindly advice.

Paula Allen

Yvette: Blog posting on your own website? YES! A high-quality blog makes it easy to produce fresh content frequently and engage your readers. Blog posts work for attracting backlinks, too. So having a blog is a great strategy all around.

The strategy that we do NOT recommend is guest posting on other websites if backlinks are your goal. (There are other reasons you might want to guest post, such as expanding brand awareness.) Bruce explains his reasons against guest posting for links here:

Thanks for reading and asking a good question!


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