Link Building for SEO: A Beginner’s Guide [+ 6 Top Techniques]

There are a lot of factors involved in getting your website to the top of search results. One of the main activities that can make a positive impact on your search engine rankings is link building.

In this guide, we’ll explain:

  • What link building actually is
  • What a high-quality link looks like
  • How to build links effectively

Let’s start.

Link Building for SEO: A Beginner’s Guide (+ 6 Top Techniques):

What Is Link Building in SEO?

Link building is a marketing technique that involves getting other websites to link to your site.

High-quality backlinks can signal a website’s authority and relevance to search engines. They can also help drive traffic to the target website.

Types of Backlink Attributes

Backlinks can have different attributes attached to them. The purpose of these attributes is to show search engines how a specific backlink should be treated.

These include:


Use the rel=“nofollow” attribute when you don’t want search engines to associate the linked page with your website. Links containing the nofollow attribute generally don’t pass link authority.

They look like this:

nofollow attribute


The rel=“sponsored” attribute indicates that the target website paid to have the link placed on your page. Here’s an example of a sponsored backlink:

sponsored attribute


The rel=“ugc” attribute is used to mark links pointing to pages containing user-generated content, such as forum posts and comments. Like this:

ugc attribute

What Are the Benefits of Link Building for SEO?

Link building can help signal to Google that your website is an authoritative and credible source.

This, in turn, can increase the chances of your pages ranking well in search results for relevant keywords.

For example, let’s look at the highly competitive keyword “digital marketing tools.”

If we type this keyword into Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool and scroll down to the “SERP Analysis” section, we’ll see that the top-ranking pages all have lots of backlinks.

Semrush Keyword Overview tool SERP Analysis section

Of course, there are a number of other factors that can impact rankings. But backlinks certainly play a major part.

What Makes a High-Quality Backlink?

Not all backlinks are of equal quality. In general, you’ll want to aim for quality over quantity, and focus on building high-quality backlinks only. Rather than just trying to build as many links as possible.

Here are some of the key factors that affect the quality of a backlink:

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the visible, textual part of a link. It provides users and search engines with context about the content of the linked page.

In the context of link building, there are four types of anchor text:

Exact Match Anchor Text

In this case, the anchor text matches the keyword the page is being optimized for. For example, linking to an article about content strategy using the anchor text “content strategy.”

anchor text example

Partial Match Anchor Text

The anchor text partially matches the target keyword. Like using the anchor text “keywords” to link to an article on types of keywords.

example Partial Match Anchor Text

Branded Anchor Text

Here, the brand name of the website being linked to is used as or in the anchor text. Like using “Influencer Marketing Hub” as the anchor text when linking to a page on this website.

Branded Anchor Text

Naked Anchor Text

A naked link anchor text consists of the actual URL of the page. 

Like this:

Naked Anchor Text

Ideally, the anchor text for a link should be descriptive of the content of the linked page. 

Avoid using generic anchor text, such as “click here.” The anchor text should also be relevant to the content of the page being linked to.

Link Placement

Links can be placed within the main content of the page (as a text or image link). And in navigational areas, like the header, footer, and sidebar.

Links placed within the main content of the page are typically able to pass more authority than links placed in the footer or sidebar. The idea is that links that are more likely to be noticed and clicked on by users are more valuable from an SEO perspective.

Domain Authority

The more websites that link to a specific domain, the more search engines like Google may consider the domain an authority on a particular topic or set of topics. 

The way Google’s ranking systems assess or use the authority of a given website isn’t public knowledge. But there are metrics out there that can act as a proxy.

One such metric is Semrush’s Authority Score. It aims to measure the authority of a domain based on:

  • The total number and overall quality of links pointing to the domain
  • The amount of organic traffic the domain receives per month
  • Any indicators of spam or link manipulation in the domain’s backlink profile

Each domain gets an Authority Score from 0-100, with higher scores indicating a higher level of authority.

You can find out a domain’s Authority Score by using Semrush’s Domain Overview tool.

Simply type in the domain and hit the “Search” button.

Search button

The tool will generate a report on that domain. Including details of the website’s traffic and keywords it ranks for. At the very top, you'll be able to see the domain’s Authority Score.

Authority Score Semrush Domain Overview

Domain Relevance

While getting backlinks from high-authority domains is crucial, it’s also important that these domains are relevant to the topic of your page or your overall website.

For example, if you run a blog about investing in the stock market, a backlink from an authoritative investing website like The Motley Fool would be highly relevant. 

But a link from a health website like WebMD would usually be irrelevant. Even though it’s a highly authoritative site in its own right.

Domain Traffic

Sites with higher monthly traffic numbers may be considered as more authoritative. Often making them better candidates for high-quality backlinks (although relevance is still important to consider).

It can also mean a higher likelihood of driving valuable referral traffic to your website.

You can use the Domain Overview tool again to learn how much organic traffic a domain is getting. And to see a graph of this traffic over time.

Domain Overview tool / traffic

Link Uniqueness

Getting five relevant backlinks from the same website can help improve your site’s link authority. But it’s often more valuable to get five relevant backlinks from five completely different domains.

Think about which of these products you would trust more:

  • Product A: Recommended by the same person on five different occasions
  • Product B: Recommended by five different people

You’d likely put more trust into product B. 

Search engines can take a similar approach with websites. Those with more unique backlinks may be seen as more trustworthy compared to sites with multiple backlinks from a handful of domains.

Note: How Google ranks content involves far more than just the number of links your site gets. But backlinks are a confirmed ranking factor, and so building high-quality backlinks can improve your site’s rankings and traffic. 

6 Commonly Used Link Building Techniques

There are plenty of different ways you can build links to your website. Below are some of the most popular link building techniques.

1. Reach Out to Websites That Link to Your Competitors

Sites that link to your competitors’ websites can be good link building opportunities.

Since they’re already linking to your competition, they’re likely relevant to your industry and willing to link to similar sites. 

And if you can provide these websites with a reason to link to your site instead (like through a more comprehensive piece of content), you may be able to secure high-quality backlinks.

But how do you find websites linking to your competition? With Semrush's Backlink Analytics tool.

Start by entering a competitor’s domain and clicking the “Analyze” button.

Semrush Backlink Analytics tool / Analyze button

The tool generates a detailed report on your competitor’s backlink profile. Next, visit the “Referring Domains” tab.

Semrush Backlink Analytics / Referring Domains tab

Here, you’ll be able to see a list of all the domains linking to your competitor’s website.

Semrush Backlink Analytics tool

To filter the list to show only links that pass link authority, click “+ Add filter.” And then select “Link Attributes.”

Link Attributes / Backlink Analytics tool

Choose the “Follow” option from the drop-down.

Follow option Backlink Analytics tool

You can also sort the list by Authority Score by clicking on the “AS” column. Once you’re happy with the list, you can click the “Export” button to export the list to an Excel or CSV file.

Export button / AS column / Authority Score

Then you can move on to reaching out to those websites to request a backlink.

2. Perform a Backlink Gap Analysis

While a domain linking to a competitor’s website is a good link building opportunity, an even better one is a domain that links to multiple competitors. Because linking to multiple competitors signals that the domain is likely highly relevant to your industry.

But how do you find these websites?

By performing a backlink gap analysis. You find websites that link to all your competitors, but not to your website. This “gap” is what you’ll prioritize in your link building efforts.

Comparing long lists of backlinks manually would take you a long time. Use Semrush’s Backlink Gap tool to automate the process.

Start by entering your domain and the domains of up to four competitors. Then click “Find Prospects.”

Semrush Backlink Gap tool

The tool will then generate a report containing a list of domains that link to your competition. By default, it shows you all the domains that link to your competitors but not to your website (the “Best” tab).

Best tab Backlink Gap tool

You can use the “Weak” tab to see domains that point to your website fewer times than to your competition. And the “Unique” tab will show domains that only point to one of the websites (including yours).

You can click the number under each competitor’s column to see the exact page that’s linking to them, as well as the target page and anchor text used.

Weak / Unique tab

Analyze these pages to understand where you could request a link to your website. For example, is there a roundup of tools your site could fit into?

Reach out to the referring domains to plug these backlink gaps.

3. Look for Unlinked Mentions

Have you ever seen an online article mention a brand but not link to its website? This happens more often than you think.

It’s probably happened to your brand as well, whether you know it or not.

These types of brand mentions are a great opportunity for link building. Once you find these websites, you can simply reach out to them and ask them to add a link to your brand. 

Since websites mentioning your brand already know about you, they’re more likely to link to your site.

Now, you can try looking for websites that mention your brand manually—typing your brand name into Google and looking through the results.

Or you can automate the process by using a tool like the Brand Monitoring app from Semrush. 

Here’s how it works:

Start by clicking on “Get started” on the Brand Monitoring app page.

Brand Monitoring app Semrush / Get started button

Next, select the “Brand” option.

Brand Monitoring app Semrush / Brand option

Enter your brand name.

brand name / Brand Monitoring app

Select sources to track in the “Sources” section (News and Blogs are typically the most important ones for backlinking). Then click “Create query.”

Create query button / Sources section

The app will then search the web for mentions of your brand and display them in a list. As shown below:

Brand Monitoring app Semrush

From here, you can filter the list by date by clicking on the “Date range” drop-down. More recent mentions may be easier to convert into backlinks.

Date range drop-down

You’ll also want to only show unlinked mentions by selecting the “Without backlinks” option under “Mention details” > “Backlinks” in the left-hand menu.

Mention details / Backlinks

Reach out to the websites mentioning your brand and ask them to add a link to your site.

4. Find Broken Link Opportunities

Broken links are links to pages that do not exist. These pages might have been deleted or their URLs may have changed. Or the link may have had a typo in it. In any case, they’re another great opportunity for link building.

All you need to do is find websites linking to your competitors’ broken pages. Then, reach out to the linking domain asking them to replace the broken link with a link to a relevant page on your website.

Use the Semrush Backlink Analytics tool to streamline this process. Just type in a competitor’s domain and hit “Analyze.”

Semrush Backlink Analytics tool / Analyze button

You’ll see an overview of their backlink profile. Head to the “Indexed Pages” tab.

Indexed Pages tab / Semrush Backlink Analytics

Check the box next to “Broken Pages.”

Broken Pages / Backlink Analytics tool

This will filter the list to only show your competitor’s broken pages.

From here, you can click the number in the “Backlinks” tab next to a competitor’s page to see all the backlinks pointing to that page.

Backlinks tab

You can filter the list of backlinks by placement (content, header, footer, or sitewide), platform, language, and more.

Semrush Backlink Analytics tool

Click “Active” and “Follow” to only show backlinks that are still live and set up to pass link authority.

Active / Follow buttons

Reach out to relevant websites on this list asking them to replace the broken link with one to your website. For more on this technique, check out this guide to broken link building.

5. Create Linkable Resources

Linkable resources are pieces of content or tools that have a high chance of attracting backlinks thanks to their value or uniqueness.

Like this free SERP preview tool from Portent:

Portent SERP preview tool

Semrush’s Backlink Analytics tool shows that, so far, the tool has generated 495 backlinks for the website. From more than 260 different domains.

Semrush Backlink Analytics tool

While these types of resources have the potential to generate backlinks passively for years, they usually require a lot of time and effort to create. So you need to create something that’s going to be:

  • Valuable: The resource needs to be highly valuable to your audience
  • Unique: There shouldn’t be plenty of similar resources already out there (or it’ll be hard to get links to)
  • Actionable: It should provide actionable advice that your audience can implement straight away

Once you create a linkable resource, it’s also important that you spend the time to distribute it. Apart from publishing it on your website, you can share it on your social media channels or send it to your email list.

You can also send it to the prospects you find through any of the other backlinking strategies on this list.

6. Become a Trusted Source

Becoming a trusted source in your field can also lead to link building opportunities.

For example, you might get invited to contribute to articles on industry blogs. Or have your existing content quoted on other websites, with a link back to your site.

You can also take the active approach and use platforms like Connectively (formerly HARO) and Help a B2B Writer to pitch quotes to journalists and writers.

These platforms send out daily emails with requests for quotes. You can reply to the emails with your quote on a specific topic. With platforms like Connectively, you can also search through the requests using their website.


If your quote gets included in the article, the writer will (often) add a link to your website.

How to Start a Link Building Campaign

You can use Semrush’s Link Building Tool to set up, launch, and manage your link building campaigns. Here’s how:

Start by entering your domain. Then, click “Start Link Building.”

Semrush Link Building Tool

Next, add up to 10 keywords you’re looking to rank for. Then click “Keywords” at the bottom.

Link Building Settings

On the next page, enter your competitors’ domains. Then click “Start Link Building.”

Start Link Building button

The tool will then perform an analysis and generate a list of link building opportunities. Click “View prospects” to review the list.

View prospects button

Click “Advanced filters” to filter the list by URL type (e.g., blog, forum, or news website), target keyword, and top-level domain (like .com or .org). 

You can also use the “AS” (Authority Score) and “Rating” columns to determine whether a domain is a good fit for your link building campaign.

Advanced filters

The Authority Score metric measures a domain’s reputability. And the “Rating” metric is based on an analysis of more than 50 factors to determine the potential value of a backlink from a specific domain.

You can move a prospect to the next stage in the process by clicking on the “To In Progress” button.

To In Progress button

Next, visit the “In Progress” tab.

In Progress tab

From here, you can reach out to individual prospects via email by clicking the “Contact” button.

Contact button

On the next page, you’ll need to connect your mailbox and add the recipient’s email address.

email address

Add a custom subject line and write your email copy. Once you’re ready to send the email, click  “Send” or “Send and proceed to next.”

Send button

Repeat this for each of the prospects you find. And be sure to measure and track your link building efforts to improve your strategy over time.

Get Your Site to the Top of Search Results with Link Building

A solid link building strategy can improve your website’s chances of ranking high in search engine results.

You can use Semrush’s tools to streamline your link building process:

  • Backlink Analytics: Analyze competitor backlink profiles and uncover link building opportunities
  • Backlink Gap: Find domains linking to all your competitors so that you can prioritize them in your link building campaigns
  • Link Building Tool: Find link building opportunities and set up email outreach campaigns to build links


About the Author
Boris Mustapic is a content marketing consultant with over a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry. He specializes in helping B2B SaaS companies drive growth through strategic, product-led content marketing.