Backlinks are one of the most important SEO and ranking factors.
Lots of website owners have caught on to this and now charge outrageous amounts of money if you want a backlink from them.
So is it still possible to build free backlinks today?
Quick answer: Yes.
But before you can even begin to build free backlinks, you need to:
- Understand what a good backlink is
- Have the right strategy in place
- Be willing to put in the necessary work
You are about to learn everything you need to know about backlinks, as well as my top 5 strategies for building them for free!
What Will I Learn?
Backlinks are links from other people’s websites to your website. When someone places a hyperlink from a page on their website to your site, they’ve created a backlink.
Think of it like this:
- Back – refers to the link pointing back at your website
- Link – is the connection between the 2 sites
Backlinks have long been one of the most important factors for SEO. They are also one of the most complex parts of SEO to get right and do well.
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to backlinks.
The Origins Of Backlinks
In 1996 Google launched its game-changing PageRank algorithm update.
This update cemented Google as the best search engine on the planet. What was the biggest change they made in the update?
You guessed it – Backlinks.
The algorithm update meant that Google used backlinks as trust signals to a website.
The more backlinks you had, the more Google could trust you and in turn, the higher they would rank your site.
Here’s why they did it:
Backlinks are something you have limited control over. You can’t log in to another person’s site and place a link back to your site. You have to convince the site owner to do it for you.
This means that if someone links to your site, they are “endorsing” your website as trustworthy.
The Evolution Of Backlinks
While backlinks are still important today, how Google interprets links has changed a lot.
If you want to build more free backlinks to your own website, pay attention to this.
From 1996 to 2012 it was all about the number of backlinks you had. The quality of backlinks didn’t matter as much.
At that time it was – Quantity over Quality.
But in 2012 Google released a very important algorithm update called Penguin. This update is still a big part of Google algorithms today.
The Penguin algorithm update was specifically released to:
…Websites that built tons of dodgy backlinks in order to manipulate their rankings.
Millions of websites took a major ranking hit as it was released.
Since the Penguin update, the evolution of backlinks has changed. It’s no longer about building as many links as you can. You need to focus on getting quality backlinks.
Think of backlinks now as – Quality over Quantity.
What Google Says About Backlinks
The only way to consistently get more backlinks is through link building.
But let me be clear:
They only want you to acquire new backlinks naturally by people linking to your website or content because it is high quality.
Google dishes out harsh penalties to people who use sketchy methods to build lots of spammy links.
But that doesn’t mean that link building is dead – far from it. You just need to build high-quality links using non-spammy techniques.
Backlinks are still the gold standard of SEO strategies today.
Your website can experience massive growth in:
- Organic traffic
…By consistently building high-quality backlinks.
Using them wisely will help you achieve your SEO and business goals.
High-Quality Backlinks Can Increase Your Authority
In the search engine world…
Authority = Trust.
Building backlinks from reputable websites increase your website’s authority in the eyes of Google – which will increase your trust with them.
And you now know that Google will only rank websites they can trust. Quality backlinks are the best way to:
- Increase your site’s authority.
- Build more trust with Google.
High-Quality Backlinks Can Help You Reach The Top Of SERPs
The primary reason for getting more backlinks is to rank higher.
When your website’s authority increases and you create more trust with Google, your rankings will improve.
This has two big benefits:
- Your organic traffic will increase
- You can target more competitive SEO keywords
Want your website to be consistently ranked at the top of the SERPs?
Build more backlinks.
Well-Placed Backlinks Can Help Users Discover Your Content
Getting free backlinks isn’t only about increasing your website’s authority.
Backlinks placed on the right sites can also help other users discover your content.
Let’s say you run an affiliate blog about tech gear. You manage to get a backlink placed within a piece of content from another big tech website.
When people read the content on that tech website, they will see the backlink within the content and discover your website.
A well-placed backlink is a great way to get discovered by people who would have never otherwise found your brand.
High-Quality Backlinks Can Drive More Referral Traffic To Your Site
What happens when a reader discovers the backlink to your site?
They will likely click on it and see where it’s linking to.
This happens more than you would think.
Backlinks can be a great way to drive more referral traffic from other websites. And referral traffic is usually really high-quality traffic.
Think about it:
If a friend refers you to a dentist, you are more likely to trust that dentist than if you randomly found one on Google. It works the same way for referral traffic.
Remember backlinks are considered to be an “endorsement” or “vote“.
Readers who come across a link to your site are far more likely to trust you because they are being referred to you from another website they already trust.
Referral traffic from backlinks is not to be underestimated.
Just as good backlinks will help your site, bad backlinks can damage it significantly.
Here’s what I mean:
Spammy Links Can Stop You From Ranking in SERPs
Fair warning – Google link penalties are real and happen more than you think.
If you build spammy backlinks you will likely receive a:
- Manual penalty
- Algorithmic penalty
…From Google. And Google penalty recovery is tough work.
Link penalties can be so harsh you can be taken out of the SERPs altogether. Dodgy backlinks just aren’t worth the risk.
Quality control has to be at the centre of all link building.
If you outsource your link building, you should hire reputable link building services with a history of building quality links.
This helps you avoid potential penalties while your rankings increase – not decrease.
Spammy Links Can Make Your Search Traffic Drop
It’s as simple as this:
If your rankings die off, so will your organic search traffic. Spammy or bad backlinks can hurt your traffic. Why would Google promote a site in the SERPs it doesn’t trust, right?
Avoid building dodgy links at all costs…
…Even if you see immediate gains, the long-term impact could be devastating.
Spammy Links Can Stop Your Site From Growing
Lots of spammy links pointing to your site may not cause your rankings to drop.
But what might happen is that Google stops ranking your new content. This is because you are creating a trust issue.
Bad links may stop your site from growing, even if you don’t see a significant drop-off in search traffic.
Need help with link building? Check out my free link-building training.
Not all free backlinks are created equal.
The truth is that some backlinks are better than others. Strong backlinks will have a bigger impact on your site, improving rankings and increasing search traffic.
That’s what makes getting powerful backlinks so important.
Don’t settle for worse backlinks just because they are easier to get. Spend time building free quality backlinks that move your website forward.
So what makes a powerful backlink?
Evey free backlink you build should be evaluated by:
- Relevancy – The link should be coming from a page that is relevant to your topic.
- Domain Strength – Well-known websites have more authority and strength. Build links from quality sites that have good domain authority.
- Page Strength – The page that contains the link matters. The more valuable a page/post is on the website, the stronger the link will be.
- Anchor Text – This is the text that your link is embedded in. The anchor text should be relevant to your topic and target keyword.
In the beginning, link building can be overwhelming. It’s a skill that takes time and practice to develop properly.
But if you have the skills to generate powerful free backlinks consistently, you will be in the top percentage of SEOs.
Check out my link building checklist training to see exactly how I only build backlinks that improve rankings.
Now you understand:
- What makes powerful backlinks.
- Why they are essential for improving your SEO.
So below are my top link building strategies that I’ve developed over time and practice which will help you build high-quality free backlinks.
1. Replicate Your Competitor’s Best Backlinks
This is my absolute number one link-building strategy.
I have been using it for over 10 years and it’s still the strategy I get the most wins with.
It has the power to bring you a ton of strong free backlinks that can skyrocket your rankings (and traffic).
Here’s how it works:
Your top SEO competitors have spent a lot of time and effort building a strong backlink profile. You want to uncover all of the sites that link to your competitors and build backlinks from those sites as well.
The best part about this strategy is your competitors have done the hard work for you.
Uncover Your Competitors Backlink Profile
You first need to do a backlink analysis of your top SEO competitors.
Go to Google and search for your target keyword. The first 5 results in Google are your top SEO competitors.
Now you need to use a backlink checker tool to get a complete list of your competitors’ backlinks.
This saves you some time, the best backlink checkers are:
My personal favourite is Ahrefs, so I recommend doing their 7 day trial for $7.
Once you have your chosen tool and list of your top competitors, you need to get the list of backlinks from each competitor.
You can download my free intelligent spreadsheets to make this a breeze.
You can also do this manually if you prefer.
Finding your competitors’ backlinks is simple. Copy and paste your competitor’s domain into Ahrefs Site Explorer and click search.
On the left side, click Backlinks.
Filter Out The Bad Backlinks
Now you have a complete list of your competitor’s backlinks that you can replicate. The next step is to analyse and filter which links are worth replicating.
As a reminder, a strong backlink:
- Is relevant to your topic
- Has good domain strength
- Comes from a quality page
- Has relevant anchor text
Export the list of links and start filtering through each link, deleting low-quality links that aren’t worth your time.
Replicate Their Method
For this next part, you need to use the power of observation.
Open each link in a new tab and start looking through them. As you’re doing this, you want to answer the question – “How did my competitor get this link?”
Then it’s as simple as doing the same thing to get a link.
- If the link was from blog commenting – make a blog comment.
- If the link is from a guest post – pitch a guest post to the website owner.
If the site links out to your competitors, they will likely do the same to you.
As you work through the list of links, you’ll get a good feel for this process.
Over time it will be like a well-oiled machine that consistently brings you in new free backlink opportunities.
2. Write Guest Blog Posts
Guest posts are still a great way to get free backlinks.
Because it’s an exchange of value. You write a great piece of content for the website that you want a link from and you get a free backlink in return.
That’s what I call a “win-win“.
It’s also great to build relationships with people in your industry that can lead to collaborations down the road.
But the truth is guest posting isn’t what it used to be 10 years ago. It’s much harder to earn high-quality guest post links in 2022.
Lots of website owners have caught on and now want some form of payment to go with the link placement.
But that doesn’t mean it’s completely dead either. This is how I still get high-quality guest posting opportunities today for free.
Create A List Of Target Prospects
You first need to put together a list of guest post prospects.
These are websites that you want to secure a guest post on. Use Ahrefs to make this super-fast, or you can manually search for the websites yourself.
Remember to target relevant websites with:
- High domain authority
- Good page authority
You can work the anchor text into your guest post later.
Evaluate Each Site
Take the first website in your list and type the domain into Ahrefs Open Site Explorer.
Check each site’s domain rating (DR) and add it to your list.
You want to work through each website on your list, recording the DR as you go along. Delete any websites on your list that look spammy or have low DR.
You don’t want links from them.
Guest Post Outreach
Once you have a list of finalised websites, you will need to find the email address of each website owner so you can contact them.
Use Hunter.io to automatically find contact emails, or you can manually check the site to find an appropriate email.
Struggling to find an email address? Follow my email address lookup guide!
Use the following template to contact each blog owner:
I was checking out [SITE] today and found the guest post you published from [GUEST POSTER’S NAME].
I loved that article, I just shared it with my audience.
I’d love to be your next guest author. Here are some topics that I think would do really well with [SITE] readers:
Do any of these ideas look good? Let me know your thoughts.
I highly recommend that you don’t just blindly copy and paste this template. Use it as a guide and customise it for each website owner.
Personalised emails do take longer but you are far more likely to get a response.
Create An Amazing Guest Post
Got a couple of guest post opportunities?
Now you need to create amazing content. You must provide the highest quality content possible and write with their audience in mind.
Check out the blog’s previous articles to get a feel for their style. Take the time to read some of the comments to see their audience’s responses.
Not only does this make it easier to write the content, but you will also make the blog owner very happy.
Ensure that you also add relevant-
- External links
You can also embed relevant videos to really make the content stand out.
Finally, add a backlink to your website within the content using good anchor text. Make sure that the link and anchor text sound completely natural.
Once you are happy with your article:
- Send it off to the blog owner.
- Wait for them to publish it.
When the content is published, don’t forget to share it on your social media and send it to your email list.
Continue To Build The Relationship
Guest posts should never be a one and done thing.
You should actively look to build a relationship with the website on which you are guest posting. Take an interest in what they are doing and follow them on social media.
You never know what collaborations this could lead to in the future!
3. Find & Replace Broken Links
There are tons of broken links online.
It’s hard enough for most website owners to keep their website up to date, let alone ensure that every link on their site is still working.
This provides a great opportunity to score some free backlinks.
Broken link building is when you find “dead” (broken) links that are no longer live and offer your website a replacement for them.
You get a free backlink and the owner replaces a broken link on their website.
This is how you do it-
Get A List Of Prospects
First, you need to get a list of websites together.
Simply Google the target keywords you want to rank for and take the top 20 search results for each keyword. Add them into a spreadsheet.
This should give a nice list of potential prospects.
Find The Broken Links
Now you will need to find broken links on each of these sites. For this you can use either of two tools:
Ahrefs will analyse a site for you and find any broken links within that site automatically. It scans the whole website, and you can simply filter the results for pages with broken links.
Check My Links is a cool free Chrome extension. You can have it scan any page on any website and it will highlight all of the broken links on the page.
Here’s the truth:
It is possible to get free backlinks with Check My Links.
It just takes a significantly longer investment of your time. Ahrefs speeds up the process by delivering all the broken links for any website you want in a simple report.
You can get a detailed guide on how to use both tools to find broken links here.
Contact The Site Owner
Once you have finished analysing each website, you need to reach out to each website owner to let them know about their broken link.
Find their email on their website or use Hunter.io to do it for you.
Simply send them an email explaining that you were reading their content and clicked on a broken link. Your primary goal should be to:
- Provide value for them
- Build a relationship
That means don’t alert them to the broken link and immediately ask them to replace it with your content.
That’s not likely to win you many favourable responses.
After the initial contact, if you have a relevant piece of content you can suggest it as a replacement.
Don’t have a relevant piece of content?
You could create content that fits the broken link and suggest it as a replacement.
This is a bit risky though, as you might spend ages creating content and they don’t end up using it as a replacement link.
The last thing you can (and should) do is just focus on building a relationship.
Once you have a relationship, you can always ask for a link or even a guest post later down the track.
4. Become An Active Member Of Your Niche’s Community
Being an active member in your niche’s community is about far more than just getting backlinks
Although this strategy is relatively simple, it will take a lot of time and effort in the beginning. But if you are persistent you can:
- Get free backlinks
- Generate lots of traffic
- Create worthwhile relationships
Here’s how it works:
Your goal is to find relevant blogs and leave value-adding comments on them.
Sounds easy, right?
Find Niche Blogs
You can sign up for a free account and find blogs based on certain topics.
Spend a few minutes finding and adding blogs to your feed. You will end up with a complete list of potential blog sites to engage with.
Now you want to set up a notification so you get an email every time they post a new blog.
Leave Intelligent Comments
Whenever you receive a notification of a new blog, you need to get on it fast.
Your goal is to be the first comment. Most blogs have a comment form like this:
You must fill in all of the details including adding your real email address and website so you get the free backlink.
You also want to connect your email to Gravatar to display a profile picture next to your comment.
Before commenting, read the whole blog. This will help you come up with a valuable comment you can make to improve the discussion.
Here are some important tips to remember when writing blog comments:
- Write a few sentences in the comment – not just one line.
- Always use your real name
- Use your real email address
- Add value to the discussion
- Only comment on relevant blogs you actually like
- Be the first comment on the blog
Never write spam – This is the fastest way to develop a bad reputation.
The secret to success with this strategy is being a part of the right communities and focusing on helping others.
5. Intelligently Use Your Social Media Profiles/Pages
Most people aren’t really concerned about social media backlinks.
Google doesn’t really value them as “powerful” backlinks because anyone can sign up for a social media account and put a link back to their website. And for the most part, these backlinks are “no-follow” links.
But they will still add value to your overall SEO and backlink profile.
Think about it:
All trusted websites and businesses have social media pages. So although they don’t add a lot of “link juice“, social media links add a lot of legitimacy and trust to your website.
Not to mention they are the easiest free backlinks you can possibly build.
Create Profiles And Pages
First list out all of the social media pages and profiles you want to have a presence on.
And any others that you like. Now you want to go and create a profile on each of them. Make sure you spend time making them all look good and on-brand with your business.
The goal is to build a legitimate list of social media pages/profiles.
Add-In Your Website
Now you need to add your website so that you can build the backlink.
But there are a lot of places to create backlinks from on each social media network. These are the most common places:
- Pages bio
- About description
- Page buttons
- Image & video descriptions
Adding links to your website in every appropriate place on social media will help you build a strong social backlink profile.
For a complete list of 23 social network sites you can get free backlinks from, see my social media backlinks guide.
Wrapping It Up
Free backlinks are available all over the internet.
You just need to use the right strategy and spend the time building them.
Before starting link building, make sure you’ve built a solid SEO foundation using my 45+ steps SEO checklist. Once that’s done you can focus on links.
Always play the long game and opt to build a relationship with someone rather than just getting a backlink. This is how you build free backlinks like a pro!
Struggling to build high-quality backlinks?
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I create backlinks for free?
You can create free backlinks by using a proven link building strategy. The best strategies for creating free backlinks are replicating your competitor’s backlinks and writing guest posts.