What Type of Backlinks Does Your Business Really Need Right Now?

Written by Neil Patel on March 14, 2016

link types

I bet that you’ve read the following advice on marketing blogs, in some form or another.

“In the changing SEO landscape, you need to just publish high-quality content to earn links. Link building is diminishing in importance.”

Do you know what type of backlinks your business really need right now? Check out this cheat sheet then.

This isn’t the most practical advice.

First, backlinks remain a vital quality ranking signal for search engines. A recent study of 15,000 competitive keywords by Moz found that almost all of the websites that rank had an external link pointing at them.


And, writing useful and actionable content without proactively building links isn’t the best strategy with over 2 million posts getting published every day.

What’s worth understanding is how the variety, quality and quantity of links affect your website’s search rankings.

To give you some insights:

Searchmetrics found that the correlation between the number of backlinks to a page and its ranking declined from 2014 to 2015.


But, the correlation between the number of referring domains (separate sources for backlinks) increased for the top 30 search results.


This might raise a lot of questions for you. Do you no longer need more backlinks than your competitors? Or, how can you find relevant backlinking opportunities that will help you in outranking your competitors?

Generally, you’ll find that the more difficult it is to acquire a backlink, the higher is its value.

For achieving the best results, you need to execute a personalized SEO campaign based on the competition in your industry. I’ve already shown you how to build links in a scalable way, creative strategies for building links and building links without writing fresh content.

In this article, I’ve organized the types of backlinks you should pursue, based on the current website standing and the type of your business.

Ready to unravel the backlinking puzzle?

Let’s begin with the types of backlinks you must avoid. 

4 backlink sources you should detest

Google’s algorithm does not count backlinks equally. Links in the footer, sidebar and navigation don’t carry much weight.


If you try to game the search giant with black hat techniques, you’re going to get hit with a penalty and lose your traffic.


You’ve got to seek links from trusted sites that have zero spam association.


Here are 4 specific type of backlinks that aren’t effective now.

1. Low-quality article directory submission websites

Remember the day when EzineArticles worked like a charm?

Not anymore.

If a website does not add value to its audience and/or contains spun/duplicate content, then it has a poor image in Google’s eyes.

Avoid spammy directories that solely exist to publish low-quality content and provide do-follow links to webmasters.


Paid directories like DMoz may work, but be cautious.

Similarly, you should also avoid low-quality guest posting opportunities. It’s considered scraped content by Google.

A single guest post on a relevant high-authority website in your niche will outdo 10 guest posts from irrelevant websites.


2. Performing link exchanges at scale

A few links between your own websites will work fine.

But, if your backlink profile consists solely of exchanges from spammy websites, it’ll raise a red flag in Google’s eyes.

Irrelevant reciprocal links between websites can also lead to a penalty.

Avoid automated outreach emails for building links, like the one below.


3. Thousands of automatically generated links from web 2.0 properties

Don’t buy those $5 Fiverr gigs promising 25,000 backlinks.

The links are generated from tools using web 2.0 properties Blogger, Squidoo, WordPress and Hubpages. They are low-quality and a high link velocity will invite a penalty from Google.  Legitimate links don’t happen overnight.


4. Paid links that pass PageRank

If you’re buying/selling backlinks and leave footprints, then Google’s going to come after you.

So, all of your sponsored links must contain a rel=nofollow tag. Otherwise, Google considers them as link schemes trying to manipulate PageRank.


3 circumstances to help you determine your backlinking type

Knowing which kind of links to avoid isn’t enough, because every business is at a different stage with its own set of challenges and constraints.

Here are 3 common business conditions to help you pursue the most appropriate backlinking opportunities (along with actionable techniques to acquire backlinks).

1. If you get under 100 website visitors/day

While the lift in your search rankings will take place later, it’s always nice to see a spike in your analytics. Right?

I’ve got some good news for you:

The best kind of backlinks also draw referral traffic to your website.

So, if you’re at the beginning stage of building your website, here are 3 strategies you can use to score backlinks.

Guest PostingBuilding your personal brand is pivotal to your blog’s growth. Guest blogging on authority websites in your niche is a great way to build your brand image.

After writing 300+ guest posts, I’ve built my personal brand and I now receive referral traffic from numerous websites.


Guest blogging is such a scalable strategy that Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing solely relied on it to grow from 0 to 23,000 monthly pageviews.


Google has cracked down on spammy guest posting and keyword-rich anchor text guest post links.

But, you can still post on relevant blogs and link to your own contextually relevant and useful content. It might help you in ranking for long-tail keywords.

Guestographic Method – As you start guest posting, you’ll note that many blogs only allow author bio nofollow links that don’t carry any link juice.

This is where infographics can help you. You can use them to build contextually relevant backlinks from your article’s body.


Brian Dean calls this easily scalable method the guestographic method. His results from on-page SEO infographic posts include an influx of referring domains and a 175.59% increase in organic traffic (vs. previous month).


I’ve published infographics regularly at both Quick Sprout and KISSMetrics. At KISSMetrics, 47 infographics generated 2,512,596 visitors and 41,142 backlinks from 3,741 unique domains.

And, at Quick Sprout, every infographic I published generated 41,487 visitors and 469 backlinks from 38 unique domains. Further, it helped in increasing Quick Sprout’s brand reach (as the republished infographic in guest posts had my logo).


Social Media Marketing – More social shares don’t guarantee higher search rankings. But, social media is a great channel for getting exposure for your content and increasing your perceived value.


It also helps Google build trust, because there are more data points about your brand.


With more brand visibility, you can increase your domain authority and earn rankings without backlinks.

Case in point – Etsy.

Just look at the massive social media visibility of the brand.


And, it ranks number 1 for the high-volume keyword “handmade gift tags”.


So, what’s the big deal?

Etsy’s webpage has zero backlinks!


Besides the big social media platforms, you can also try social bookmarking websites like Reddit. Every upvote is equivalent to 2-5 visitors. And, you can get upwards of 10,000 page views, if you post strategically.


2. You’ve got a backbone of quality and authoritative content


Do you know the most linked-to content at Quick Sprout?

My internet marketing guides.

They have also established me as an authority in the internet marketing niche.


Once you touch a handful of daily visitors, you should craft a meaty piece of compelling content that adds value to your audience. Choosing an in-demand subject for writing is critical for this high-quality content.

Here are 2 strategies that will help you find a relevant content topic and promote your cornerstone content to score backlinks.

Skyscraper TechniqueThis is an extremely effective strategy, because even before you start creating your resource, it’s guaranteed to generate interest from your audience and other webmasters.

The strategy simply involves:

i. reverse engineering a linkable asset in your industry (using Ahrefs and BuzzSumo).


ii. creating an even more insightful, valuable, updated and better designed piece of content.

iii. Reaching out to website owners to link to the original linkable asset. You can also reach out to bloggers in your niche who do weekly roundups and best of posts/resources.


Brian Dean achieved a 110% increase in his overall website traffic, in only 14 days, after executing the strategy.


Internal Linking – If you’re a regular reader of mine, you’ll know that I regularly refer to my guides (whenever they are relevant and add meaning).

Deep linking to your authoritative content from relevant blog posts helps your website’s overall SEO.


Your SEO improves by distributing link juice to internal pages. As the ranking power distributes throughout your entire site, your homepage’s authority also increases.


Internal links also aid the website’s navigation and enhance its crawlability.


By presenting more useful information on a subject to your readers, you can also reduce your bounce rate and increase your average on-page time.

Just ensure that all of the links to your cornerstone skyscraped content are from relevant blog posts with different anchor texts.

Glenys added 14 internal links in an experiment to rank for a buyer keyword (‘product name’ + ‘review’). And, she was able to attain a first page keyword ranking.


3. Your business doesn’t have a budget for creating high-quality content

Let’s face it – It’s difficult to create high-quality content. It’s also costly to outsource content marketing. But, most backlinking strategies rely on content creation.

What if your team does not have the skills to craft persuasive content? Or, what if content creation does not clearly demonstrate a good ROI for your business?

You can follow these 3 backlinking techniques.

Broken Link Building (BLB) – This a classic link building strategy that works because you add value to the internet by offering to repair a broken link.

It’s based on the principle of reciprocity. Since you add value to a webmaster by finding broken links on his website, he is likely to return the favor with a link to your website.


It’s more effective in a competitive niche (like make money online and health), because you’ll find a lot of websites experiencing link rot.


Richar Marriot from Clambr.com built more than 50% of his backlinks using BLB to scale his authority site’s traffic (as visible below).


Brian Dean takes BLB a step further with his moving man method (MMM). First, he searches for outdated pieces of content. Then, he contacts webmasters who are linking to the outdated page (which are working, technically).

He breaks down how he scores backlinks through this strategy in the video below.

Chris Laursen built 7 contextual backlinks to his client’s brand new eCommerce website using MMM. Look at the increase in his referral traffic.


If you want to get started with BLB, then read my broken link building guide.


You don’t need content to score backlinks with BLB. But, if you combine it with other tactics like the Skyscraper, then it’ll accelerate your success rate.


Get interviewed or quoted through HARO – Media websites have a huge amount of traffic and high domain authority. And, it’s possible to get mentions by the likes of Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post by signing up for Help A Reporter Out (HARO).


Just sign up as a source,


Pick up a relevant journalist requirement from the emails you receive,


And address every question in the query, in detail, in your pitch email.


That’s all it takes to pick up a high-quality link from HARO.


It’s also possible to get interviewed by popular blogs without being an expert. Read this guide by Ann Smarty.

Reverse engineer your competitors – It ultimately boils down to how your competitors are building links. So, the last strategy is to buy a premium backlinking tool subscription and outdo your competitors.

You can filter the backlinking opportunities suitable for your business without requiring new content.

I’ve written how you can harvest your competitor’s backlinks using Scrapebox in this guide.



Backlinks from highly trusted and popular websites significantly increase your website’s authority. They are also a great source of exposure and help in driving referral traffic.


 Based on your available business resources, keep building backlinks using the strategies I mentioned in the article. Avoid links from spammy sources like the four I mentioned in the beginning.

What kind of backlinks have you found to prove the most effective for your business?