Natural link building is the cornerstone of SEO.
While it is true that there are plenty of ways to boost your site’s performance, natural link building will always be part of the equation.
But what is natural link building?
This post will explain what makes natural link building your best option for off-page SEO campaigns.
Natural Link Building Guide
Natural Link Building Defined
In simple terms, natural links are backlinks that were acquired organically.
And to qualify as an organic backlink, the URL should have no tracking parameters and must have been used without being paid for. You also cannot use monetization tools or third-party services to acquire the backlinks.
You want users to see your content, find it useful, and link to it because they know your page brings tremendous value to their audience.
That is why most organic links have high-quality content that’s full of useful information.
And if you’re thinking of writing a guest blog post and build links to your website, then too bad. Backlinks, in this case, are considered unnatural links.
What Are Unnatural Backlinks?
Speaking of unnatural links, what are they? And how are they different from natural link building?
One sure sign that a link isn’t organic is when you see a tracking parameter in the URL. For those who are unfamiliar, it looks something like this:
The extra string of characters at the end of the URL helps webmasters keep track of the performance of a specific page.
So when someone adds URLs like this one to a page, search engines and users can quickly tell that the backlink is a deliberate choice.
But outside of tracking parameters, there are other ways of inserting unnatural backlinks to a post that are not as obvious.
Sponsored content usually have paid backlinks. If done well, a backlink would be unnoticeable and unintrusive.
For example, Netflix sponsored an article from the Wall Street Journal about the proliferation of cocaine.
The reason? To promote its web television series Narcos.
There are no links within the article itself, and the reporting is as expected from a reputable news organization.
But right in the footer is a link pointing to Netflix.
Therefore, the quality of the report and the subtlety of the link don’t matter. This is blatantly an unnatural link.
Link exchanges—where two parties agree to link to one another—is also considered unnatural linking despite no money changing hands.
Is There Such a Thing as a Semi-Natural Link?
Yes, there is.
Remember when we talked about tracking parameters? Well, there are times when users would mindlessly copy the URL—tracking parameters and all—and insert it on the article they’re working on.
So now, there’s this gray area where the link is organic by nature, but the tracking code says otherwise. This is what’s referred to as a semi-natural link.
One possible way around this is having your URL with tracking parameters redirect to a version that doesn’t have it.
So by the time that the page loads, the URL wouldn’t have extra characters that would raise any flags.
Good vs. Bad Backlinks
When aiming to get natural backlinks, you need to know the difference between good and bad backlinks.
Understand that a good or bad backlink in this scenario is not referring to the quality of the site where you find the link.
A good backlink could come from a site that’s not performing well in the SERPs. And a lousy backlink could come from a high-DA (domain authority) page.
How is that possible?
Well, it all depends on the type of SEO you’re doing. Here’s an example:
If you’re trying to rank for a small town in the U.S., then it wouldn’t make sense to get backlinks from a high-quality site for an Asian website.
On the other hand, getting backlinks from a low-traffic site that caters to the residents of your place of business might be right for business.
Google’s algorithm is sophisticated and involves a lot of factors. So while the scenario above is real for the most part, it isn’t always guaranteed.
That’s why you should always take a good look at your backlinks, observe how they’re affecting you, and disavowing only those that hurt your ranking.
The Ideal Natural Backlink
Other people will always link to a resource that’s helpful to their readers. This is also the case for posts that provide data that you can’t find elsewhere.
So if you’re drafting a post, consider the following points:
- Write a post that people would happily share with friends on social media. A great piece of content is something users will have no problem sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other social media pages. So after writing a post, go over it to check if it’s something people would likely share online.
- Connect with your audience on an emotional level. It’s not enough for you to provide factual information. You also need to make your post connect on other levels. Share stories that would get your point across better. Make your audience laugh, cry, or get mad (whatever is appropriate for the post).
- Provide a solution to a problem that currently has none. Sites would cite sources that have all the answers. So when you research a topic, see what others are saying and provide answers to questions that your competitors have failed to address.
- Find an angle that other resources have not taken into account. When you discuss a topic one too many times, find a different perspective. This will help keep your post relevant and worth linking to.
- Explain complicated ideas in an easy-to-digest manner (use humor if necessary). Even if you’re able to provide relevant data, it’s pointless unless you’re ready to explain it in a way that anyone could understand.
- Promote your posts so people can find them faster. People can’t link to you if they can’t find your content. So promoting posts is not even a question; it’s a necessity if you want to get a quality backlink.
The Importance of Link Building
Natural link building is the foundation of SEO. When search engines crawl a page, it goes beyond the content of the page. It also looks at how many pages are linking to yours.
Google has emphasized the importance of links for quite some time. In this 2010 video, Matt Cutts (then an engineer in the quality group at Google) went into how links (and other factors) help with online searches.
Fast-forward to today, Google still emphasises the importance of backlinks, link juice, and referral traffic as seen in this updated video.
And remember, this was uploaded years after all the Google algorithm updates they’ve made.
So yes, natural links are essential because they help Google assess the quality of your page. And if you pass, there’s a good chance it will land you on page one of the SERPs for the term you want to rank for.
Natural Link Building Benefits
Outside of appearing on the SERPs, what are the advantages of natural links?
Here are a few:
- Increased Site Traffic — The more users see you on the results pages, then the more people would be able to visit your page. And more users can discover your pages if you’re linked to by websites that they already frequently visit.
- Better Social Media Presence — If people see other sites quoting you, then they’re more likely to share your pages on their social media accounts. This is especially true if you have graphics or videos that are easy to digest on social media platforms like infographics.
- Loyal Followers — When people quote you regularly, they will view you as an expert in your field. Therefore, more of them will begin visiting your site to see what you have to say. This is good, especially if you’re trying to be an authoritative figure in your niche or industry.
Link Building Case Studies
Below, you will see link building examples with results.
Junto, an online marketing company, has released a link building case study. Here, it discussed how they were able to increase its client’s organic traffic by 55.9% over three months.
The company did use guest blogging as part of their strategy. But they mostly relied on white hat SEO practices to accomplish their goal.
It performed keyword research and discovered relevant topics that their client’s competitors are not writing about. So Junto proceeded with generating high-quality content that they knew its target audience would be happy to read.
It also spent a significant amount of its time, boosting the client’s overall backlink profile.
In the end, it was able to get 43 backlinks from 15 different websites.
There’s also an experiment that was done by David Farkas of The Upper Ranks.
Over a year, he posted articles on his site (in the medical/healthcare space). For six months, he developed 26 high-quality content and spent the rest of the year waiting to see if traffic would come in.
The catch is that he did not do anything to promote the pieces. He didn’t build any backlinks.
The site had nearly zero traffic.
It was at this point when David decided to make his posts more suited to natural link building. Specifically, he added linkable assets. Then he did some outreach to parties that may be interested in the content he had to offer.
He was able to get backlinks from over 100 domains.
David’s traffic skyrocketed.
The site’s organic traffic increased by as much as 2,000%.
Writing Content That’s Worth Linking To
As you may have realized by now, you need to create a solid article if you want people to link to you organically.
So how do you do that?
It’s not as complicated as you think. But it does take a lot of effort. Your posts need to have a clear purpose.
Here are a few tips that could help with that.
Do Competitor Research
You could start by looking at your competitors and analyze their link profiles. This would give you an idea of how they’re attracting links naturally.
You can do this using SEO tools like SEMrush.
SEMrush isn’t free, so it is something you need to think about investing in (try it for 30 days for free). However, the data it delivers helps many businesses develop the kind of content they need to prosper.
It is worth considering.
And if you need more information on how it can help you, we’ve written a post on using SEMrush to spy on your competitors that you should check out.
Write High-Quality Posts
Once you have your data, you’ll know what topics to shoot for. But writing mediocre content won’t do. You need content that would surpass your competition.
Let’s say you’re writing a blog post. To gain any traction, it needs to be the best. This means the article should be long-form. But don’t just write a long post for the hell of it. It needs to have substance.
You also need to invest in captivating media content. Only use images and videos that are relevant and useful. And if necessary, you can also use screenshots, graphs, slideshows, quotes, and even user-generated content.
With great content, people will link back to you without the need for anything in return.
Decide What Type of Post You Should Publish
Another thing to consider is what type of post you should be publishing. Content doesn’t always have to be in blog form.
You have a ton of options.
- Interviews — You can talk to people your audience would be interested in. Then you can transcribe the conversation to make it easier for people to browse through. If you want an example of this post type in action, check this interview with Aires Loutsaris by SpeedBoostr.
- Infographics — Infographics are easy to share. Plus, you can display a lot of information that users could easily digest because everything is visually appealing. It’s not that hard to do. There are so many sites now dedicated to helping those who don’t have graphic design knowledge. Check out Canva’s Free Infographic Maker.
- Collaborations — You can try working with another person in your space to come up with a post that’s worth sharing. It could be an experiment you run together or a study where you pull both of your resources and merge them into one. It will be good exposure for both parties involved. You can even work with some of your loyal readers.
- Case Studies — Case studies generate a lot of natural links because you’re giving information that other people don’t have access to. When users write posts and need proof to make their argument, they’ll pull case studies to back up their claims.
- Resource Posts — Resource posts are content that has links to articles, tools, and tutorials that users would need to expand their knowledge. Having all the resources on one page is a good reason to be backlinked. Creative Boom, for example, has this great resource page for graphic designers.
- Tutorials — Do you know how to do something proficiently? Write about it. People who would find your tutorial useful would link to it when they talk about it in their respective domains.
- Reviews — Reviews are big on sites like YouTube. But they’re also just as significant in the blogging world. You can review products or services that people won’t readily have access to. Sites in the gaming genre have done a lot of reviews for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order that people link to in their posts.
- Event Coverage — If you attend conferences a lot, then you could publish recaps of what has taken place during the event. Moz has an annual event called MozCon. And one of the attendees took the opportunity to post an update on what happened on the first day of MozCon 2019.
- Insider Scoops — Got the latest news about something your audience profoundly cares about? Then give them insider knowledge. Insider news is often quoted by bloggers, mainly if you’re covering a topic that their audience is excited by. This post by Tom’s Guide released leaks about the Galaxy S11, a phone that many users can’t wait to get a hold of.
How to Build Quality Backlinks
Writing a high-quality post will only get you so far. There are plenty of ways to build quality backlinks.
Let’s explore your other options.
Use Social Media
Social media can do a lot for the promotion of a post. Infographics perform well on Pinterest. And there’s a demand for entrepreneurial articles on LinkedIn.
Tools like Buzzsumo will tell you what kind of content users are sharing on social media. Do some research and base your content around what people are talking about.
Not only do you need to create high-quality posts, but you also need to push them out consistently.
Your tone also needs to be the same throughout your site.
This is because users will expect the same tone once they get used to your style of writing. Also, your post should be free of typographical errors.
Use a free tool like Grammarly to review your posts before publishing. It’s easy to miss mistakes that can turn off your audience.
Repurpose Old Content
Do you have an old post that’s performing well? Then it’s probably worth updating it.
Convert the post into another format. You can use it to make videos, podcasts, or infographics. Since you already have the foundation laid out, converting should be easy.
Old posts could generate more backlinks for you. And you won’t need to hire a writer to make it happen since the content is already there.
Publish Free Resources
Earlier, we talked about creating your resource page and how to get backlinks from it. But what if you want to be in someone else’s resource page?
That is possible.
You can repurpose your old content or start a new one then convert it into a free resource. For example, you turn a post into an e-book.
When users find your free e-book, there’s a chance they will include it in a resource list.
Natural link building is a process that every SEO needs to know about.
If you want to start ranking on search engines and need to increase your organic traffic, use this guide to get more backlinks to your site.
And remember that the best way to get backlinks is by publishing fantastic content.