2023 Backlink Guide

Credibility is important in marketing. It’s better to have someone else vouch for you than preach credibility yourself. Backlinks that point from one site to another are ranking factors in many search engine algorithms. These backlinks act as a vote of confidence: another website owner is stating your page offers value and that your domain has authority on the article topic.

Knowing how to get backlinks is an important part of search engine optimization (SEO), as it helps your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERP) and delivers a steady stream of traffic. Realistically, there are likely hundreds—if not millions—of sites very similar to yours. How do search engines choose which to show on the first page?

This makes ecommerce SEO ultra-valuable for merchants in a world where paid ads are getting expensive.

Studies show a strong correlation between organic traffic and the number of backlinks a site has. And link building is a tactic that’s not going anywhere: The vast majority of SEO practitioners believe Google will continue to use backlinks as a ranking signal for the next five years.

So it’s necessary to know how to get links for your website.

How to get backlinks: 15 ways

  1. Be a resource for journalists
  2. Use HARO or hire a HARO agency
  3. Publish original research or data
  4. Create statistic roundup pages
  5. Publish free tools
  6. Find unlinked mentions and ask for a backlink
  7. Repair broken links
  8. See who’s linking to your competitors
  9. Utilize your business network
  10. Analyze existing referral traffic
  11. Pitch inclusion on a resource page
  12. Have your products reviewed
  13. Join communities
  14. Be a podcast guest
  15. Don’t forget about internal links

Now that you understand the importance of backlinks, how do you get them?

1. Be a resource for journalists

Journalists are always looking for sources to feature in their stories.

Find journalists who write about topics that overlap with your website. If they’re writing a piece relevant to your topics of expertise, there’s a strong chance you’ll be featured—and earn a backlink in the process. Ecommerce beauty business owners, for example, would want to connect with journalists who write for publications their audience reads, such as Grazia or Cosmopolitan. Locate the About Us page for each publication and find the journalist most likely to need your expertise.

Cosmopolitan’s About page showing beauty journalists.
Find journalists who work for your target publication on the About page.

Once you’ve got your list, get on the journalist’s radar. Connect with them on social media and reach out to share your expertise. Keep it short and sweet—they likely get hundreds of direct messages each day. State what you do, your unique value proposition, and how your input will help their readers.

The best part? If you’re an ecommerce website, logos from well-known publications go a long way in building trust/social proof. The “featured in” logo wall gives first-time website visitors confidence your products are credible, and that can increase sales page conversions by up to 34%.

While backlinks from The New York Times might seem unattainable right now, start with smaller, local publications and work your way up to larger news sites.

2. Use HARO or hire a HARO agency

Services like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) make it easier for website owners to connect with journalists who write for high authority websites. Register as a source and receive emails when journalists look for contributions that align with your expertise.

HARO is the most popular platform of its kind. As a result, journalists can be overwhelmed with responses, making it harder for your own outreach email to stand out. Diversify your link building strategy with similar, less crowded platforms like:

  • Help a B2B Writer
  • SourceBottle
  • Terkel
  • Qwoted

Using this link-building tactic, SEO Consultant Blake Smith saw a 327% year-over-year increase in organic search impressions by responding to journalist requests.

Google Search Console showing an increase in search impressions.
An increase in search impressions Blake Smith saw from his backlink strategy.

3. Publish original research or data

It’s almost impossible to get backlinks if your website doesn’t have content that’s worth linking to. That’s why 40.7% of SEO professionals say content marketing provides the strongest passive link building results.

Typical content marketing programs will create blog posts, case studies, and white papers. Use your content program to produce research reports using proprietary data. Since journalists won’t be able to find your brand-produced research anywhere else, this will net you more backlinks.

Create and publish surveys, then analyze the findings and share with your audience. It doesn’t have to be a massive report, either. Ask five to 10 questions and create a mini report with the findings. Low effort, high impact!

Katherine Boyarsky, Co-founder of CXD Studio

Mike Brown, Director of Communications at Breeze, took this approach and published 16 data-driven reports in one year.

“I create original research reports, whether it’s a survey or from publicly available data resources, and pitch these to the media/high-quality websites in the hopes they cover the data and link back to meetbreeze.com,” Mike says. “It’s an incredibly affordable way to build a ton of high-quality backlinks and rapidly increase your site’s domain rating.”

The content strategy has paid off. Talking about Breeze’s survey on remote work, Mike says, “As of today, this has built 133 unique backlinks for the low survey cost of $1,350—$10 per backlink.”

Ahrefs “top pages” report showing backlinks from HuffPost, Bloomberg, and Yahoo.

Breeze’s original research has backlinks from major news sites in the industry.

For extra brownie points, design an infographic that summarizes the original data you’ve collected. Site owners often embed these on their website to cater to visual learners, while crediting the original source (i.e., your website) with a backlink.

4. Create statistic roundup pages

Speaking of statistics, you don’t have to invest resources into producing data. Round up existing data from other sources and compile them into a statistical roundup.

Writers and journalists often search for data to support their stories. Make their job easier with a roundup page that compiles external data from third-party sources. There’s a strong chance the writer will link to your roundup page instead of the original source.

To find this data:

  • Scour data aggregator sites like Statista or Foursquare
  • Look on industry publications, such as eMarketer or The Business of Fashion
  • Search Google News for phrases like “new study reveals + [topic]”
How to Get Backlinks: 15 Proven Strategies
Google News retrieves unique data in the gaming industry.

“This strategy works incredibly well because journalists are likely to link back to data as a point of reference, and they always need fresh data,” says Holly Lawton, Sales and Marketing Head at Pearl Scan.

“As long as you can do an initial outreach blast of your statistics page to relevant journalists and then ensure that your page ranks highly, there isn’t actually a lot of effort required aside from actually building the page itself.”

5. Publish free tools

The stronger the reason to link to your website, the easier it’ll be to get backlinks to your website. Free tools are amongst the strongest reasons. By linking to your tools, other site owners are achieving their own goals: providing value to their readers … even if that means directing them elsewhere. That includes:

  • Templates
  • Calculators
  • Maps
  • Checklists

While producing free tools can be an expensive investment (both in terms of time to create and money to maintain), they speed up your link building efforts (answering your question about how to get backlinks) and can help new websites rank quickly.

Let’s take a look at some examples of free tools and their backlink profiles:

  • Jones Road’s “What’s your shade?” quiz50+ backlinks from 30+ websites, including Byrdie and Katie Couric Media.
  • Bankrate’s mortgage calculator57,000 backlinks from 330,000 websites, including Wikipedia, Investopedia, and The New York Times.
  • CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer35,000 backlinks from almost 8,000 websites including HuffPost, eBay, USA Today, and Inc.
Ahrefs screenshot showing links from reputable websites linking to CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer has an impressive backlink profile.

6. Find unlinked mentions and ask for a backlink

If your website has been around for a while, there’s a good chance people already talk about your brand. Reach out to them and ask the website owner to turn that mention into a backlink.

To find unlinked brand mentions:

  • Create a Google Alert for your brand name
  • Search your brand name in Google News (using quotation marks if it’s longer than one word)
  • Use a premium brand mentions tool like Mention or BrandWatch
Google search results for “Shopify.”
Potential backlink opportunities for Shopify

Once you’ve found them, find the contact information for the website owner. Use this template to turn the unlinked mention into a backlink:

Hi [name],

Thanks for mentioning [brand] in your article on [topic]. It was a superb read that we shared with our audience on [social media platform].

Over the mention of our brand name, could you please link to our website? It’d help your audience find us where you’ve recommended [reason surrounding their brand mention].

Here’s the link to our website: [link]


Depending on how established your brand is, this list can be long. Prioritize those with the highest domain authority. They’ll have the biggest SEO impact on your website.

Claiming unlinked mentions is a low-effort, high success backlink building strategy. There’s no need to convince a website owner to mention you; all that’s required, on their part, is turning an existing line of text into a link.

When you request these backlinks, add in an exact match anchor text that points toward your homepage. Should someone search for your brand name and this anchor text in a search engine like Google, you improve the chances of your website coming up top.

7. Repair broken links

Pages are deleted, links are edited, content is replaced. There are many reasons why a once fully functioning backlink can end up broken. Don’t let your previous link-building efforts go to waste.

Use an SEO tool like Ahrefs to uncover broken links pointing to your website. For each one:

  • Redirect the broken link to the next-best fully functioning page. If /category/tees no longer exists but you have 100 backlinks pointing to it, redirect the broken link to /category/t-shirts to avoid sending people toward a 404 error page.
  • Ask the website owner to edit the link. Explain how it’ll benefit their readers. Sending people to a broken website isn’t good for user experience.
Ahrefs screenshot showing broken links on a website.
Top broken inbound links for Content Marketing Institute.

Aaron Anderson, Link Building Strategist at LinkPitch, used this broken-link-building strategy for an attorney client: “We found some pages in legal dictionaries that were broken, so we recreated the pages of those definitions and then did outreach to all the sites linking to the broken pages,” he says.

“The results were really awesome. Even without building any links to priority or ‘money’ pages, that site saw a significant increase in organic traffic. Those pages weren’t even necessarily related to the attorney’s area of expertise, but, as an attorney, it made sense for him to be able to clarify legal terms.”

Ahrefs report showing an increase in backlinks pointing to a website.
An increase in backlinks as a result of Aaron’s SEO strategy.

While you fix broken links on your website—point to either an external website or another page on your own domain. It’s these small user experience factors that influence a search engine’s ranking position.

8. See who’s linking to your competitors

Searching for new backlink opportunities? Look no further than your competitors, many of which have already done the hard work for you. Some 72% of SEOs said links from sites specifically related to your niche are more likely to positively influence organic rankings.

Creating something better than your competitors have—be that a higher-quality product, free tool, or piece of content—can influence the website owner to replace a competitor’s link with yours.

Enter your competitor’s domain into an SEO tool like Ahrefs, Moz, or Semrush. Comb through each backlink profile and determine which popularly linked-to pages you can improve on.

Ahrefs report showing the best pages by incoming links.
Peak Freelance’s Ahrefs report shows the most popular pages on the website.

Let’s put that into practice. Say your competitor has a handful of backlinks pointing to its “how to make your own candles” blog post … but it’s only 1,000 words long. If your content team has the expertise to expand on their blog post and add even more value to readers, you have a shot at competing for this backlink.

Create a better content piece and reach out to the website that linked to your competitor’s weaker version using this template:

Hi [name],

I’m reaching out because you link to a page on [competitor’s] website that talks about [topic]. We just published a more comprehensive guide to this topic—it covers [extra detail] and more. Here’s the link: [link]

I’m sure your readers would appreciate this added information. Feel free to update the link on your website to point them in our direction.


9. Utilize your business network

Examine your business network and see if there are some reasonable ways your contacts can backlink to your site. After all, links represent relationships.

Pay especially close attention to people in your network who:

  • Are influencers with large social media followings
  • Write for reputable, well-known websites in your industry
  • Work for educational institutions (and can secure a coveted .edu link)

Reach out to each person on your list and offer something in exchange for a backlink—be that a guest post, free tool that’s useful to their audience, or reciprocal backlink.

“We’re all struggling with rankings and updates, so by offering a collaboration opportunity, you’re not just opening the door for long-term relationships, you’re actually offering a benefit that your partners can leverage.” —Estrella Alvarado, SEO Specialist at Brafton

Freelance SEO Consultant Daniel Foley adds, “In addition to developing ties with other professionals in your industry, you should interact with and engage your audience. This strategy won’t work overnight, but you can start immediately by introducing yourself via email, engaging with people on social media, and giving real comments on the stuff that others provide.

“There is a very high likelihood that others in your network will link to your content due to their personal connection, mutual respect, and admiration for your work.”

10. Analyze existing referral traffic

Backlinks obviously provide domain authority, but it’s not just SEO that benefits when you build links to your website. You can drive higher quality traffic—people with a genuine interest in your content or are more likely to convert—through backlinks.

Uncover these link building opportunities by analyzing existing referral traffic through Google Analytics. Do most visitors arrive from sponsored reviews, directories, or company news announcements? Double down on what works best.

Similarly, if you’re doing SEO for an ecommerce store, use Google Analytics segments to see where your highest converting customers come from. For example: if backlinks from influencers’ blogs convert 20% better than those on publications like Vogue, prioritize influencer marketing as a backlink strategy that raises conversions and rankings.

Google Analytics segment by referral source.
Google Analytics referral source segment shows the top converting visitors from referring domains.

11. Pitch inclusion on a resource page

Website owners publish resource pages to build topical relevance and improve user experience. The reason is, it’s better to satisfy user intent with a resource page than to miss out on the touchpoint altogether.

In a time where no one hands out free links anymore, you need to approach link building with an account-based relationship. No matter how big or small your company, your cold outreach should be more about giving than receiving. Take the time to understand what publishers and editors are looking for.

Alex Birkett, Co-founder of Omniscient Digital

Take advantage of resource pages by pitching your products, services, or free tools. Explain why their readers would find the resource helpful for the best chance at securing a backlink.

Here’s a quick template to get you started:

Hi [name],

I came across your resource page on [topic]. I loved how you mentioned [linked-to resource]—I also find that useful when [use case].

Speaking of helpful resources, I wanted to share [your resource] in case it’s useful for your readers. Our customers say [USP]. I’d love to see it included in your roundup if readers would feel the same.


12. Have your products reviewed

If you’re building backlinks for an online store, you have one advantage over non-ecommerce websites: the ability to send products to authors.

One of the most popular ways to get backlinks and drive high-quality traffic to your website is to reach out to bloggers with a free sample of your product. These written testimonials will naturally garner a link back to your site, especially if combined with an added incentive (such as affiliate commission).

Food & Wine’s review of Avec Drinks
Avec Drinks secured backlinks from a high-quality publication in its niche, Food & Wine, through product reviews.

Familiarize yourself with the blogs in your niche and their relative size. Spend some time getting to know the authors and engage with their current posts to get on their radar. Once you’ve built some rapport with the authors, pitch them on your product.

Use the outreach email template below by making some minor modifications to it.

Hi [name],

My name is [name], and I’m a fan of your blog. I’ve been a reader for [X weeks/months/years] and especially enjoyed a recent post on [similar topic].

We’ve recently opened an online store to sell [products]. They’re special because [your value proposition].

I’ve sent a sample of [product] to the address listed on your contact page. If you love it as much as I do, perhaps you’ll consider sharing with your audience? Please let me know if you’re interested in learning anything at all about these. 


13. Join communities

Communities are secret havens for link builders because the people within them all have one thing in common: their interest.

Find communities in your niche across Facebook Groups, Slack channels, or Reddit forums. Be active in the community by starting conversations and responding to others. An increase in brand awareness often correlates with an uplift in backlinks since more people are aware of your content.

“The biggest mindset shift for me with link building has been moving away from cold outreach and into link building and digital marketing communities,” says Jakub Rudnik, Head of Content at Scribe. “I invest roughly two hours each morning and build more links than my full-time link builders in a week at past companies.

Jakub takes this approach because “these people are online and actively seeking to build their own links. No more guessing who is the right contact at a company or waiting for an email response. I’m often able to make a connection and build a backlink within minutes.

“Our blog is brand new, and I’ve been able to build 150+ do-follow referring domains in our first two months, mostly using communities.”

Ahrefs screenshot showing 173 referring domains.
Jakub Rudnik of Scribe built backlinks from 173 referring domains through communities.

14. Be a podcast guest

Podcasts have exploded in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 424.4 million worldwide listeners. Capitalize on the trend by appearing as a guest on someone else’s podcast. It’s common practice to link to a podcast guest’s website in the show notes.

“I believe you can advertise your company and obtain a brand new link by appearing on podcasts. Although you might be tempted, relevance to your issue is more crucial because engagement is what you desire above all else.

Martin Lassen, Founder and CEO of Grammarhow

The best part about this link building strategy is that you can get several links off the back of a single podcast appearance. Many podcasters syndicate episodes—and subsequently, the show notes containing your backlink—to streaming sites like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Podcasts.

Spotify’s show notes with links to brand sponsors.
Brands like BlueJeans, Huel, and Crafted get backlinks from Spotify by sponsoring the Diary of a CEO podcast.

If you have more cash than time, go the sponsorship route. Research shows it costs $18 to reach 1,000 listeners through a 30-second podcast advert, or $25 for a 60-second shoutout. Make a backlink to your website part of the deal.

15. Don’t forget about internal links

Backlinks from external websites aren’t the only types of links your website should build. Internal links that point from one page on your site to another also tell search engines what the page is about and what it should rank for. It can get new web pages ranked quickly, too.

To find internal linking opportunities, do a site: search for the topic you’re writing about. Find a natural mention of that keyword and link to your new content over it.

For example, there are opportunities to build internal links that point toward this article from existing, already-indexed content:

Google search results for “linkbuilding” on the Shopify blog.
Internal linking opportunities elsewhere on the Shopify blog. 

“Internal links are an essential component in the efficient operation of a blog,” says Gerrid Smith, Ecommerce Growth Specialist at Joy Organics.

“They are directing link juice in your direction, and you are free to use your anchor texts. You may help people easily navigate across your website by having a good internal linking structure, which will boost the overall quality of the experience for users of your website.”

Grow your backlink profile today

Link building is one of the most important elements of any website’s long-term SEO strategy. There’s only so much you can do to tell search engines you have a great store, content, and products. You need others to vouch for you. That’s exactly what backlinks do.

Set a goal and devote a few hours to link building each week. Over time, you’ll build more domain authority, will rank for more keywords, and will deliver an ever-growing steady stream of organic traffic, day in and day out.

Backlinks FAQ

Backlinks are connections between your website and another. Also known as incoming or inbound links, they divert traffic between two sites and influence search engine rankings.

Backlinks are important because they prove to search engines that your website is trustworthy and, therefore, should rank higher in search results. Quality is better than quantity when building backlinks, since the reputation of one website passes through to another when they’re linked.

The easiest ways to get backlinks to your website include:

  • Publishing original research
  • Guest blogging on popular websites
  • Repairing broken links
  • Turning brand mentions into links
  • Becoming a podcast guest

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