Lesson 8: How to Attract Backlinks Naturally
If you’ve been paying attention throughout this course, you’ve likely noticed that there’s a key tactic that keeps coming up—to win at SEO, you’ve got to create top-quality content.
Why is content such an integral part of SEO?
Because great content can be promoted to influencers and other sites to build reputable backlinks. It can also attract backlinks naturally, especially when you create it for that purpose.
When you do that—creating an article or page that you know in advance has the potential to attract backlinks—we call it a “linkable asset.”
One of the main reasons websites struggle to get backlinks is they don't have content worth linking to. It’s understandable (if misguided). These sites are trying to earn traffic and attention by producing a lot of content. But when you try to produce large quantities of content, its quality often declines.
The truth is, no one will link to mediocre content when there are other sites out there producing high-value linkable assets.
So how do you create linkable assets that can magnetically attracts backlinks? Here’s the 3-step process we recommend.
Step 1: See if your competitors have something "special" on their websites
The best way to figure out what you can do to attract tons of backlinks is to review what your competitors are doing.
Choose one of your competitors’ websites and plug it into Ahrefs' Site Explorer tool. Navigate to the Best by links report. Then set the “HTTP status code” filter to “200 OK.” This is the standard response for successful HTTP requests and ensures that the pages listed in the report won’t return a 404 or similar error.
For this lesson, we’re using Neil Patel’s site, quicksprout.com, as an example. And it only takes a quick review of the results (above) to identify his strategy.
Neil has created beautifully designed and extremely valuable guides to SEO, Content Marketing, Online Marketing, Growth Hacking, etc., which then attract backlinks from hundreds of websites.
Sometimes, as with Neil’s site, your competitor’s strategy will jump out at you. But other times, you’ll need to explore their top-linked pages to figure out why they attract so many backlinks. The idea is to find a pattern so you can piggyback on your competitor’s strategy and create pages that are at least as linkable.
- Type a competitor’s website into Ahrefs' Site Explorer tool.
- Navigate to the "Best by links" report.
- Set the “HTTP status code” filter to “200 OK.”
- Review the results to figure out the pattern/type of content they use to attract backlinks.
Step 2: Follow your competitors’ lead
The marketing guides on QuickSprout attract a crazy number of backlinks naturally. People are so impressed by Neil’s generosity, giving away incredibly advanced information for free, they can't help but share the guides with their peers.
To follow QuickSprout’s lead, we’d need to create similar guides that are impressively useful and beautifully designed. (We haven’t done that at Ahrefs yet, but we know, if we were to create a series of in-depth guides, we’d probably get similar results.)
Now, think about how you could apply your competitor’s pattern for creating linkable assets to your own site. Could you create a similar type of content? Could you improve on it in any way? Could you adapt it to make it more unique or more relevant to your audience?
The main hurdle here is the amount of time, effort and money you might need to invest in creating an asset that would dwarf what your competitors have created. And if you feel that their assets are too good to outperform, you’ll need to try a different path. Think about how you could do something unique that’s similar enough to get the same results.
For a deep dive into creating content that attracts backlinks, read our article, Deconstructing Linkbait: How to Create Content That Attracts Backlinks. It lists several types of content that attracts links and shares 4 tips to ensure your content is truly linkable.
- Open your competitor’s linkable assets and review them to figure out what makes them unique and valuable.
- Brainstorm for ways to create a similar type of content while taking it to the next level.
- Do the work to create an amazing linkable asset.
Step 3: Develop a promotion strategy for your new linkable asset
The goal of this lesson is to create an asset that naturally attracts new links without a lot of promotion. But it’s rare for any piece of content to do that without a promotional jump-start—getting it in front of as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
For that, you’ll need to develop a list of people who are likely to share your linkable asset. And a good place to start is to contact people who have linked to your competitor’s linkable asset.
To do this, put the URL of one of your competitor’s assets into Ahrefs' Site Explorer. Then go to the Referring Domains report and look at where their backlinks are coming from.
By studying who links to your competitor’s asset, not only will you be able to come up with a huge list of outreach prospects, you might also discover who helped them create it
Start your review of the Referring Domains report by identifying the domains that have linked to your competitor’s linkable asset. Keep in mind that this list is sorted with the most valuable domain ratings (DR) at the top of the list.
For each referring domain, click the Backlinks button to see the specific pages they’ve linked from. This will tell you how and why the link was made.
Your goal is to find pages where a new backlink to your page makes sense, then reach out to these sites to show them your linkable asset.
It doesn't matter if you have a blog or an ecommerce website, because this stategy will work for both. Even more so, if you have an online store, you know how hard it is to drive links to a product page. That's why this strategy is absolutely essential for you.
- Put the URL of each of your competitor’s linkable assets into Site Explorer.
- Open the “Referring domains” report to see who’s linked to their asset.
- Open the backlinks for each domain and review the page to see how and why the link was made.
- Reach out to each of these domains to show them your linkable asset.
As we’ve mentioned in previous lessons, most sites won’t likely link to your asset right away. But since you’ve created a piece of content that outshines your competitor’s best work, some may be willing to do so.
For tips on outreach and setting realistic expectations, read these two articles from the Ahrefs blog:
- I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email Without Reading. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry (2017 Revisited)
- How We Use Blogger Outreach To Promote Content And Build Links
For a refresher on how to replicate your competitors’ backlinks, review Lesson 3: Building Backlinks to Rank in the Top10.