One of the most important aspects of SEO is getting links from other sites to your content. Theses inbound links show search engines that your content is trusted by other sites. Trusted so much, that they are willing to direct their own audiences to it.

But building links to your content is much harder than it used to be. Back in the day, creating a solid piece of content would garner some good links. Now, thanks to content shock, getting your content noticed, and then earning enough trust to get a link, is really hard work.

As with anything that’s relatively hard to do, people came up with shortcuts. Some of these shortcuts are pretty smart, and completely ethical (known in the SEO world as “white hat” techniques).

However, others are pretty unethical (known as “black hat” techniques), and can lead to your site getting completely removed from search engine indexes (the kiss of death for many sites.)

Link Building

4 Link Building Techniques

Honestly, there are TONS of techniques for building links, but we want to touch on 4 of the major techniques.

1.Natural Editorial Links

Search engines use inbound links to determine how trustworthy your content and site are. The more inbound links you have from other trustworthy sites, the more likely your content will rank well.

The most transparent and ethical way to build links to your site is to let it happen naturally. Create amazing content that gets noticed and is worthy of being shared.

Some forms of PR fall into this as well. When someone from your organization is interviewed by a publication, the publication may include a link back to your site. You may even pitch a piece of content that helps the publication’s audience, so they will link directly to it.


  • This is the most ethical and white hat way to build inbound links to your site
  • These links usually last forever (well, not forever, but as long as the other site remains active)
  • The more inbound links you get, the more likely you are to rank well. The more likely you are to rank well, the more traffic you get. The more traffic you get, the higher the likelihood of getting additional inbound links. Repeat.
  • Getting natural editorial links shows you that you have created very valuable content that people trust


  • The process for getting links can be very slow
  • You’re dependent on others finding your content first, which for small sites may not happen by itself

2. Guest Posting

Another white hat way to build great inbound links to your site is to create guest posts on publications and blogs in your industry. In these guest posts, you either create a link back to your homepage or a specific piece of content on your site in your byline or within the article itself.

This process involves first pitching an idea to the the publication you want to write for, or writing on spec (writing the post first and then pitching it).

The key to guest posting is to develop trust and rapport with the people who run the websites you want to guest post on. Then, create and pitch content that will have real value to their audiences (not promotional content.)

Most of the time, links you include in your guest post will pass SEO value to your website.


  • Guest posting is a fairly white hat technique, though it can definitely be abused
  • The links usually last forever since the post isn’t specifically a paid or sponsored post with an expiration date
  • Guest posting on a popular industry publication not only helps with SEO, but exposes the publication’s audience to your brand in an authentic way


  • Pitching can be time consuming and come across as spammy to some publications – building a relationship with the publication first should be the first place you start
  • Some publications will replace links to your content with links to their own content
  • If your content doesn’t perform well on the publication, they may not be eager to accept another guest post from you

3. Sponsored Content

Now we start to wade a bit into the gray area of link building…

Sponsored content, when done transparently and strategically, can be a great way to build links. However, many publications have specific rules around how your sponsored content links back to your site.

Many times, sponsored content will not pass any SEO value back to your site because the publication puts a “nofollow” qualifier on the links you build. This qualifier is used on the majority of ads you see on sites as well.

However, some publications are happy to get sponsored content and will gladly pass SEO value back to your site. The key is to find out which publications will pass on that value.

Like an ad, many sponsored content opportunities have an expiration date – usually an annual contract. Once that contract is up, the publication may remove your sponsored content and any inbound links built from it.


  • Not reliant on pitching. If you have money, you can make it happen
  • Possibility of gaining links in highly read, highly trusted publications
  • Good brand awareness and exposure to the publication’s audience


  • It’s pay-to-play, and your links usually only last as long as you’re paying
  • Some sponsored content doesn’t pass any SEO value at all
  • Even if links are supposed to pass SEO value, Google may notice it’s paid content and still not give the links credit
  • This is still a form of paying for links, so if it’s abused, Google could take action against your site

4. Buying Links

The easiest way to get links back to your content is to simply buy them from a shady vendor. You pony up a few hundred bucks, and you get a bunch of links to your site. Great, right?


Buying links is strictly against Google’s guidelines. If caught, you can bet that your site will face a penalty – either decreased rankings or getting your entire site de-indexed (the kiss of death.)

There are a lot of vendors out there that promise “legitimate backlinks” to your content. Be very, VERY wary of them.

Most of these sites utilize private blog networks or link farms, which are dozens, or hundreds of sites that they own. Usually these sites are old, expired sites that they buy. They then link them all together to artificially increase their Domain Authority.

Then they charge for each link they create back to your content from those sites.


  • Buying links is easy
  • There’s a slim chance you can buy some links and actually see some short term gain from them


  • Your site can get flagged and de-indexed
  • It’s entirely unethical and against Google’s guidelines
  • You’re supporting techniques that take away from an open and honest Web

Next steps

What’s your current link building strategy?

If you don’t have a current strategy for creating inbound links, look to bullets 1 and 2 above and see where you can get natural editorial links or guest post on industry publications.

Are there any other white hat techniques you use? Let us know!

About Sketchalytics

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