How to Build High Quality Backlinks for Free
No matter what any guru or attention-grabbing article circulating the blogosphere may say, there is no denying that backlinks are still the most important factor for ranking sites and will be for the foreseeable future (read: link building benefits).
Because of the importance of links and the difficulty in getting quality links, one of the most common topics we see in the community is how to get high quality backlinks for free.
While it’s true that most of the more powerful links (PBN, Niche Edits, Guest Posts) will most likely end up costing you some money or take years to accumulate, free backlinks can still do a lot of good for you and are still a necessary part of the ranking process.
We are excited to bring you this list of what we believe are the most useful and effective ways to get free backlinks that actually help you rank.
Let’s get into it.
Forum and Blog Comments
All of our data confirms that forum and blog comments still have a place in SEO today and are not just some overused relic of the past.
However, they must be done in a natural way. The best way to achieve rankings with long term success is to simulate natural backlink profiles from real sites – but do it better.
The amount of blog comments and forum posts you make linking back to your site should fall into a range that Google deems natural for your specific site and industry. A small town plumber isn’t going to be mentioned in thousands of blog comments.
The bigger the project and site, the more blog and forum comments you can build safely. Also remember to be mixing them in alongside other types of links to keep your backlink profile diverse.
To get these kinds of links, find a relevant forum or blog post, sign up if you have to, and then leave a reply with a link to your website in it.
You can find these forums and posts by searching Google manually, using Google Search Operators to make the job a bit easier (Keep reading until the end for more info on these), or snooping on your competitors with a tool like Ahrefs.
Once you’ve found a good target and are ready to leave your comment, be sure that you’re providing some kind of value. If you’re not providing any kind of value, your comment or post runs the chance of being considered spam and being removed or deleted.
Here’s an example of a good blog comment that uses a real name and provides value:
And here’s an example of a bad blog comment. This comment isn’t relevant to the article, uses a spammy, exact match keyword for their name, and has another exact match keyword link within the comment:
Join the conversation, help people answer questions, or give information they will find useful. This will help your links stick and to add topical relevance.
We still use blog comments on almost every site we rank. They are easy to get and make great links for pillowing, diversifying, and adding relevance to your site.
Google owns Youtube, and although they say they don’t give special consideration to links coming from their own properties, we think they’re lying.
Our experience shows that linking from Youtube has very noticeable positive effects.
Yes, the links are nofollow. Yes, nofollow links can still be great.
First, you need to make a video. Some SEOs think making videos is too much work, but you could make something as simple as voice over text on Fiverr for just a couple dollars.
After you post your video, leave links to your website, inner pages, and social properties in its description, and be sure to give it a good, relevant title. It can be natural to leave quite a few links in the description:
Doing this on multiple pages throughout a site can really help to establish trust, relevance, and authority throughout your site.
But wait, there’s more you can do.
You can embed your videos on the pages you linked to, and you can also try to rank the videos on page 1 to take up an additional space and generate more traffic (They tend to rank easily due to their high DA).
For the time invested and benefit gained, links from Youtube videos are one of the best pound for pound free linking options available.
Broken links are links that are linking to pages that no longer exist.
Maybe the other website has been taken down, or maybe they just changed the URL for that specific article. Whatever the case, the link is broken, and this is an opportunity for you to earn a free link.
First, you will need to find a relevant site to yours that may contain some broken links. Resource websites, list pages, and educational articles about your topic make good targets to search for broken links.
You can easily find these sites the same as we discussed previously – manually, with Google Search Operators, or competitor research (more on both of these later).
Now that you’ve found some pages, it’s time to find the broken links. To do this without wasting a ton of time, download a Google Chrome extension like Check My Links.
This one is free and easy to use. When activated, it will highlight all the links on the page you are looking at. Green means they are working as intended, and red means they’re broken.
When you find a broken link, you should send an email to the site owner notifying them of it and informing them of a new page they could link to – your page.
See our article on cold email templates for a detailed explaination of how to do this as well as a template you can use for your emails.
These emails will not always result in you earning a free link, but keep your chin up! There are plenty of broken link opportunities out there that can really end up being some very powerful links for your site.
Web 2.0s are online platforms that let users create their own mini-websitse or blogs, usually for free, as a subdomain on their site. They take the hassle out of buying a domain, paying for hosting, and learning how to make a website.
This gives us another opportunity to build quality links from relevant content. Some people use Web 2.0s very heavily, but we usually create around 3-5 of these mini-sites per link building campaign we are working on.
Once you’ve picked your platform, start creating content related to the site you plant to link to. You can create multiple pages, and be sure to use outbound authority links as well as linking to your own site (just link to yourself once or twice per Web 2.0).
You can write the content yourself or have it written for you somewhere like iwriter. Have at least one page with 300-500 words (having more pages and content will look more natural but isn’t always necessary). The content should be relevant, have a purpose for the reader, and have good spelling and grammar.
They become much stronger when you point other, more powerful links such as PBNs at them to power them up. Doing this uses the high DA of the root domain as a safety filter and a shortcut to higher page power. Web 2.0s really shine when powered up like this.
Like with any other kind of link, be sure that you’re not relying on only Web 2.0s to do all the work and that you’re mixing in other types of links alongside them.
This is one of the simpler ways of generating free links, but it also requires that people are already talking about your website or company.
You can find people talking about your business either using a paid service like BuzzSumo (which is a bit expensive) or just doing it the good old fashioned way – Googling your business name and sifting through the SERPs for articles mentioning you.
Read more: BuzzSumo vs Ahrefs.
When you find an article that mentions your website/business without a link, go ahead and send them an email using one of our outreach templates.
If all goes according to plan, you will turn a good amount of your unlinked brand mentions into quality links for just a few minutes of work.
Social signals are when people link to (share) your website on a social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and so on:
While social signals are not as powerful as regular links (and Google even says that they are not counted), we have found that they do have a positive effect in helping sites and pages to rank. We’ve even heard stories of social signals being the cure for sites that wouldn’t budge.
To get social signals for free, you can simply ask your friends, family, coworkers, or satisfied customers to link to your site on whatever social media platform they use. If you have more time, you can market your site and content to others in your industry that might be interested in sharing it.
Social signals must still be used alongside normal links as well, but they are very useful for building trust to your site. If you are being linked to by regular websites and blogs, chances are that people will also be talking about your business on social media.
Social signals are social proof for your link building campaigns, are a healthy part of any ranking project, and are another great type of free backlink.
Content, Content, Content
As the old saying goes, content is king. Although we don’t agree with it, using your content to get links is very useful for those who have the time.
First, you need some content. You can look at similar content from competing sites and articles to draw on their information to write your own content, but try to bring something new to the table to differentiate your content from the others.
The better your content is, the easier the next part will be. Make sure it’s well-written and visually appealing (pictures, videos, charts, infographics). If you’re having it written for you, be prepared to spend at least $80 for a good writer.
Now that you have an awesome piece of unique content that people want to read, you have a few options of what to do with it:
1. Put it up on your site, and wait for links to come. This works for more established sites with dedicated readers, but not so much for the new guy, no matter how much some SEOs want to believe it.
2. Put it up on your site, and actively market it to get links. Resource lists, broken links, social media, Google search operators, and competitor research all all good ways to look for sites who are already linking to similar content that might also like to link to your new article. This can take a good amount of time and networking, but it can also pay off hugely in the form of quality, free backlinks.
3. Don’t put it up on your site, shop it around for guest posting instead. If your content is good enough, you will be able to find guest posting opportunities in exchange for a backlink back to your own site. This is also time consuming, so be sure you read our article on guest post outreach (with templates) to make sure you’re maximizing your chances of success.
However you decide to go about it, content marketing is a time consuming yet effective way to get free links to your website.
Spy on the Competition
Spying on competitors’ backlinks is one of our favorite ways to get free backlinks.
First, head over to Google and find the top ranking websites for the keywords you want to rank for. Put their websites into Ahrefs or an Ahrefs alternative.
Once you have their site pulled up, go check their backlinks. Look for their most relevant, high quality links that you think you would also like to have. Be sure to check out our article on link relevance for more help with this.
If you’re a beginner, this process can be a little time consuming until you are able to more quickly tell types of links apart and judge their quality. Until then, just click on the linking pages and check them out one-by-one.
Look around the sites to see if there is any way you can go about getting your own article, information, or link on the site. Some will be very straightforward while others might take some digging and/or emailing.
You can repeat this process for as many sites in your niche as you’d like, and you’ll end up piling up all the best free links from your competitors, thus giving you a huge advantage for your rankings.
Social and Forum Profiles
There are thousands of different forums and social sites out there for you to create free profiles on, and many will allow you to add a link to your profile.
Some of the biggest examples of sites like this are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. These are some of the main social profiles that every business has, but there are many, many more out there.
It’s pretty straightforward: sign up for the social site or forum, fill out your profile completely, and put a link to your website in it.
To take even fuller advantage of this, you can play around with adding your keywords into your username instead of using your business’s name. Often, those keywords will get added to the title of the page that is created for your profile which will add some extra relevance to the link coming to your website. We don’t advise doing this with your main social profiles – only with the smaller more insignificant ones.
Many of these links will be nofollow, but we continue to see a very positive effects from using this method – especially for new sites that are still in the pillow-linking stage.
We often get 100 or more of these profile links in the beginning stages of ranking sites due to their safety and naturalness – new companies will often grab up every social profile they can with their business to save for later use.
Check out our favorite free social bookmarking sites.
Directories and Citations
Directories are listings of businesses or websites. Citations are directories that allow you to list your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Some directories and citations are paid, but many are free.
As far as free backlinks go, directories are some of the most useful – especially for local SEO. But much like blog comments, be sure not to make these in a super-spammy way like people used to do in the past.
You can find niche directories with Google Search operators as well as with competitor research, and getting listed is as easy as signing up and submitting your business’s information.
Citations are the lifeblood of local SEO and should already be a part of your ranking process. You can do citations and directories for affiliate sites as well, but they aren’t crucial – they just make good pillow links.
We usually do at least 50 citations and directories when starting a new site and think they make a great, free addition to any site’s backlink profile.
Bonus: Google Search Operators to Help Find Free Links
As we’ve mentioned previously in this article, Google Search Operators are special commands that you type into Google to help refine your search in ways that will be very helpful for finding sites to get free links from.
Here is a video from Ahrefs explaining how to use some of them:
We’ve compiled a huge list with over 400 search operators that will help you find free link opportunities and accomplish other SEO related tasks much more efficiently.
One of the first things on our downloadable list is a search operator to help find blog comments. You can enter into Google Plumbing “1 comment,” or Plumbing “2 comments,” and so on to find sites related to plumbing that have comments already posted.
This one is helpful because it lets you find niche-relevant articles you can get a comment link on, and you already know that they are accepting comments (and not just denying them all).
This is just one of over four hundred search operators that you will find in our free download here:
You’ve now learned how to build quality backlinks for free that we think are some of the most useful for ranking sites and that we use on a regular basis.
You’ve also got a huge list of search operators to help you on your journey. Use them wisely.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Chris Tzitzis is an SEO and a Co-Founder of SirLinksalot.co. He has extensive experience with Affiliate SEO and running an SEO Agency.
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