Backlink--outbound links from other sites that link to your own--have always been a critical aspect of digital marketing. They used to be so critical, in fact, that many users spammed their way to the top of SEO results pages with illegitimate backlinks. This caused Google to take some steps to devalue the backlink, but no matter how often Google updates their algorithm, backlinks will always remain a big factor.

Many business owners look at link building as a time-draining technical tactic, but it needn’t be. To me, link building is the new networking, and when you employ effective networking techniques, you’ll see real results.

Depending upon the industry you’re in, a handful of links from sites that Google has already determined authoritative can place your website on page one.

One caveat to any discussion on link building: it begins and ends with useful content. If you don’t have images, videos, infographics, or how-to blog posts to share, there’s little chance you’ll succeed in your efforts to acquire links.

People link to things worth sharing--it’s really that simple.

But, if you have great content and are still getting out-ranked by your competitors, you may need to consider pursuing more backlink opportunities.

Scope the Competition

You know the saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Well, you may not think of your competition as the enemy, but you certainly can learn a lot by paying close attention to the links they have.

Many times we only think of competition in business as the business down the road getting the sales you are after. When it comes to ranking your content on search engines, your competition may simply be the sites that are outranking you for key search terms.

One of the reasons they might outrank you is that they’ve got more high-quality links. The good news is you can easily find out who’s linking to just about any website, and it’s a well-established SEO practice to go after the links that might be helping your competition rank.

How to find the links

The first step is to simply conduct some searches on the keyword phrases and terms that are important to your business.

Once you find a handful of competitors or other high authority sites from your searches, you can employ a tool like Ahrefs to get a list of sites linking back to your competition.

I like to find recent links--say in the last 30 days--so that I can see new activity. The goal of this research is to see if you can then figure out an angle to get a link of your own.

Collect all of these new links, and begin reaching out to these websites. Ask key questions:

  • Can you pitch them on a guest post on a similar idea?
  • Can you take the article that created a link for your competitor and expand on it?
  • Can you reach out and introduce yourself by way of sharing some content?
  • Can you introduce them to someone in your network who might be a good contact?

Build a relationship, and earn a backlink for your own site. This way, your competition won’t continue to gain ground in search results.