If you want your affiliate site to rank on the first page of Google for competitive keywords, you need a solid backlink profile.
Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, but the importance of high-quality backlinks is constant throughout every algorithm update.
- What is Link Building?
- Quality Links vs. Bad Links
- Link Building Terminologies
- Effective Link Building Strategies for Affiliate Sites
- How to Find Prospects for Link Building
Here’s an example of just how important backlinks are.
Art of Healthy Living is a blog that covers multiple topics related to health and well-being.
If we look at the traffic the site generates, you can see the number of monthly visitors has more than doubled over the last year.
And if we take a look at the number of keywords the site ranks for in search results, we can see a dramatic increase there too:
In December 2019, the site ranked in the top 10 results of the SERP for 295 keywords.
By October 2020, the site ranked in the top 10 of the SERP for 1088 keywords.
Now, let’s take a look at the number of backlinks pointing to the site:
At the end of January 2020, the site started to get its first do-follow backlinks.
That’s precisely when the number of ranking keywords increased, and when traffic started to lift.
That’s the power of backlinks.
But publishing great content and hoping people will find it and link to it isn’t a strategy that’s going to work.
Even if your content is the best in your niche, you’ll struggle to get links if you don’t promote it.
That means asking and encouraging people to link to your site.
In this guide, we’re going to cover the principles of white hat link building and reveal the best link building tactics for affiliates.
Let’s get started.
What is Link Building?
Link building is the process of attracting hyperlinks from third-party websites to your affiliate site.
Hyperlinks are how people navigate between different pages of a website and move from one website to another.
Google and other search engines use these links to crawl web pages and websites on the internet.
Search engines also use backlinks to determine where a web page should rank in the search results.
According to a study by Backlinko, the more backlinks a page has, the more likely it is to rank in the top spots of the SERP.
The primary purpose of link building is to increase your affiliate site’s domain authority and individual page rank.
In simple terms, a backlink is a website giving a vote of confidence to another site.
When you get a website to link to a page on your affiliate site, they are saying that your content is a high-quality, helpful resource.
According to WebFX, 46.2% of where a page ranks in the SERP is due to backlinks.
However, not all backlinks are created equal.
We’ll cover the difference between a quality link and a bad link in the next section.
Getting quality backlinks is one of the most challenging SEO tasks.
If you can do it well, you’ll have a much greater chance of outranking competitors for your target keywords.
Quality Links vs. Bad Links
Back in the days before the Google Penguin update, you could quickly generate lots of spammy backlinks from low-quality websites.
And it worked.
Websites with a ton of dodgy backlinks ranked well in search results.
Google always had a problem with this type of link building but didn’t have a way to filter out the bad links from the good links.
That all changed after the Google Penguin update.
Suddenly, many affiliates and webmasters using black hat link building tactics saw their search ranking plummet, and their website traffic drop off a cliff.
Too many bad links can actively hurt your SEO.
So, what’s the difference between a quality link and a bad link?
A quality backlink is from a relevant page on an authoritative website.
The linking website is regularly updated, publishes well-written content, and has a solid domain authority.
Domain authority, also known as domain rating, is an estimation of how likely a website is to rank high in the search results.
The higher the domain authority, the more trustworthy and established the website.
When you’re evaluating a backlink opportunity, you can use a free tool like Ahrefs Website Authority Checker to see the domain rating of the website:
The rating ranges from 0 to 100, with a higher rating indicating a greater domain authority.
A good backlink should also be relevant to the content of the linking web page.
For example, if you run an affiliate website reviewing electronics and gadgets, a link from an authority website like TechCrunch or The Verge is a high-quality backlink.
People trust these publications as an authority on the niche, and they have a very high domain authority.
You can think of the backlink as an additional resource to help the reader find more information on the topic.
If you have a website on pet training products, there isn’t much SEO value in having a backlink from a web page discussing car repairs.
The backlink is likely to confuse the reader and send a red flag to Google that you are trying to manipulate your ranking with black hat SEO tactics.
Bad backlinks are from untrustworthy sites or links that are acquired using spammy tactics.
A natural backlink profile includes links from a range of different relevant websites.
If you have a ton of backlinks from a single website, it may raise a red flag to Google.
The same goes for irrelevant links.
If you publish content about health and fitness, a backlink for a real estate site isn’t going to help you rank higher in search results.
Backlinks should also be visible to users and not hidden in the text by using a different font or background color.
This is a clear breach of Google’s best practices, and you risk being penalized.
Backlinks from forums and message boards can be good, but most of these links are no-follow, and this tactic has been overused.
If you spam links to your site in comment sections and forums across the internet, expect your website to be penalized.
When it comes to paid backlinks, it’s a bit of a grey area.
In general, Google frowns on exchanging links or paying any kind of fee to have a link placed on a website.
But you’ll find a huge number of websites do charge for both guest posts and niche edits.
Niche edits are a link building technique that involves paying the webmaster to insert a link into a webpage.
If you pay for any links, be highly selective over the websites, and always make sure the page’s content is highly relevant to your web page.
Link Building Terminologies
Before we get to the tips and strategies, let’s quickly go over some of the main link building terminologies to ensure we’re all on the same page.
Here’s a rundown of the most critical link building terms you need to know:
A backlink is a hyperlink on another website linking to your site.
Google and other search engines use backlinks as a key ranking factor.
You can think of the value of backlinks on a scale of 1 to 10.
A backlink from a relevant page on a site that is an authority in the niche, like Healthline for health and fitness content, would score a 10.
A backlink from a low-quality spammy website would score less than one and could even harm your chances of ranking high.
Backlinks come in two forms: do-follow and no-follow.
A no-follow backlink contains a HTML code tag that essentially tells search engines to ignore the link.
The HTML code no-follow tag looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.examplesite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>example site</a>.
A no-follow doesn’t offer much SEO value, but it still contributes to a natural backlink profile.
They can also be very useful if they are placed on a high traffic website.
If you can get a no-follow link on a popular site, you can drive traffic through the no-follow link to your affiliate website.
A do-follow link is a normal backlink.
In straightforward terms, it tells search engines to count the link as a vote.
There is no HTML code for a do-follow link as all backlinks are counted as do-follow unless a no-follow tag is added to the HTML.
Do-follow backlinks will help you to climb the rankings and should be the focus of your affiliate link building strategy.
This is important for gaining an accurate analysis of your website’s backlink profile and your competitors’ profile.
The referring domain is the site that contains the backlink pointing to your website.
You may have several backlinks from a single referring domain.
Once you build a relationship with a website owner, it’s likely they will link to your site multiple times.
A good diverse backlink profile contains links from lots of relevant referring domains.
Internal links are hyperlinks between the different pages of your website.
Rather than linking out to another domain, they help people to navigate to the different pages of your site.
Although internal links don’t directly impact your search ranking like backlinks, they help direct visitors find their way around and play a vital role in delivering a good user experience.
The text that is used for the hyperlink.
Anchor text helps Google determine the relevance of the link to the content and helps users decide whether to click.
For example, a vague anchor text like “click here”, is less likely to be clicked than a descriptive anchor text.
You can think of the anchor text as a promise made to the user about what is on the other side of the link.
Those are the terms you need to know, and now we’re ready to move on to the link building tips and strategies that will send you to the top of the SERP.
Effective Link Building Strategies for Affiliate Sites
There are a bunch of ways to get backlinks back to your website.
The right strategy for you will depend on your affiliate marketing niche and the resources you can dedicate to the process.
You may find it more challenging to get high-quality backlinks if you’re in an ultra-competitive niche.
In general, younger growing niches are much easier to break into…
...And you can quickly gain backlinks by engaging with the existing online community.
The link building tactics below are suitable for all niches.
Some are more long term strategies, while others can provide some quick wins.
Let’s dive in.
1. Content-Based Link Building (10x Content)
This strategy can help you gain multiple organic backlinks over an extended period.
It’s a tactic that many affiliates and marketers implement as part of their overall content marketing strategy.
In simple terms, you find a piece of content that ranks in the top spots on Google for your target keyword, and you create a ten times better version.
You can go into the topic in more depth, add more images to illustrate the points, or include a video to make the content more engaging.
By publishing something so much better than what’s already out there, you create a helpful asset that people will naturally link to.
Nomad List is a great example of successful 10x content in action.
It takes high search volume keywords and takes the content to another level by presenting information in a dynamic and easy to compare format.
It also shows that 10x content doesn’t always mean longer, more in-depth content.
If you’re competing against websites that have already gone in for long-form extensive content, consider how you can create something unique and more valuable.
That could be by including multimedia, creating a helpful tool, or publishing interactive content that is more engaging than anything else covering the topic online.
2. Broken Link Building
The internet has been around for a long time…
...And lots of websites link to pages that no longer exist.
These are called broken links.
When a user clicks on a broken link, they are directed to a 404 page.
You can even find broken links on quality pages on high traffic domains.
This link building strategy works by finding broken links and helpfully offering your content as a superior alternative resource to replace the broken link.
Here’s how the process works in three simple steps:
Step 1: Find broken links on authoritative websites.
Step 2: Create content that is highly relevant to the page that no longer exists.
You can even use the Wayback Machine to see what the original page looked like.
Step 3: Once you’ve published the content on your site, reach out to the webmaster, tell them about the broken link, and offer your content as an alternative.
You can repeatedly use this process on the different websites containing broken links pointing to the same missing page.
3. Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is one of the most popular link building tactics for affiliate marketers.
It’s a simple process that works.
You contact the owner of a website and ask if they will publish a piece of content that you write…
...And in exchange, you get to include a backlink to your site within the content or author bio.
Here’s an example of an author bio for a guest post written by Affilorama co-founder Simon Slade:
As you can see, the author bio contains a backlink to Affilorama.
Guest blogging is an effective way to get backlinks, but Google has become more adept at spotting low-quality guest posts.
Here’s what Google’s Matt Cutts had to say about guest blogging back in 2014:
“stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”
However, you can still get really powerful backlinks through guest blogging.
Like most marketing tactics, you won’t get positive results over the long term if you use spammy guest posting tactics.
If you’re going to use guest blogging, make sure your content is high quality - even if it’s not published directly on your site.
…And only approach reputable websites.
Identify websites with an existing audience that is interested in topics you cover on your website.
You’ll be able to drive relevant traffic and get yourself a backlink in the process.
This is an effective tactic for building links and getting some recognition in your niche.
The strategy works by appealing to an industry expert or influencer’s ego by tagging them in your content, on social media, or contacting them directly via email.
The goal is to get them to read the content and link back to it.
There are lots of different ways you can use ego baiting.
For example, you could directly approach the influencer and ask for an interview.
Here’s an example from the affiliate site Jana Six:
When you publish the interview, there’s a good chance the influencer will promote it on social media and link to the content from their website.
Another tactic is to create a resource or roundup post that references experts’ opinions and includes a link to their websites or social media profiles.
After publishing the content, reach out to the experts and ask for a comment on the article.
Ego baiting works by building relationships.
The goal is to get backlinks, but you can also reach a bigger audience by engaging with relevant influencers and experts in your niche.
The majority of link building strategies are based on outreach.
Outreach is the process of actively reaching out to experts, influencers, and webmasters in your niche and promoting your content to get backlinks.
This tactic works best when you have a really valuable, high-quality piece of content that will be interesting or useful to the people you contact.
You can reach out to people that have linked to content on similar topics or people that have used your target “anchor text” keywords in their content.
When you reach out, trying a two-step email process may be more effective.
You can send out a short introduction email…
...And follow up with a more personalized email introducing your content and asking for a link.
This will save you a bunch of time wasted personalizing messages to people who aren’t interested or won’t even open the email.
6. Resource Link Building
Resource link building can be an effective way to gain a backlink and drive traffic to your site over the long term…
...But the success rate usually isn’t as high as some of the other link building strategies.
When people want to learn something or find the best information on a topic, they turn to Google and search for keywords like:
- learn piano resources
- best fly fishing resources
- learn new language resources
Google usually returns the listicles and resource lists on the topic.
These pages are usually on websites with a high domain authority and receive a considerable amount of traffic.
For example, here’s a resource list from Lingualift that is displayed in the top results for the search query “learn new languages resources”:
Once you’ve found a resource list that is relevant to your niche, reach out to the site owner and ask if your site can be included on the list.
Make sure you showcase the value your site offers, and ask what you need to do to qualify for the list.
If you don’t receive a response, send up a polite follow-up email a week later.
7. Repurpose Content
This link building method works by repurposing your existing content into a different format…
...and submitting it to video-sharing websites, infographic directories, and relevant third-party websites.
If you have created an in-depth blog post, use the information you have gathered to make a short video, infographic, or series of shorter blog posts.
You can then submit the new content format to directories and content sharing websites.
If you created shorter blog posts from your long-form content, you could use those articles as guest posts.
You might not get any backlinks from very high domain authority websites by sharing your content, but you’ll get more viewers of your content.
The more people that see our content, the more chances of a backlink, and of making an affiliate sale.
8. Community-Site Link Building
Most affiliate marketing link building strategies are focused on gaining do-follow backlinks from high domain authority websites.
That’s definitely where you should focus most of your efforts, but you shouldn’t neglect the easier to get no-follow links that contribute to a natural backlink profile.
You can use forums, social media groups, and sites like Reddit and Quora to promote your content and add to your backlink profile.
Here’s an example of a link building opportunity on Quora:
By answering the question with a detailed response and linking to your website as an additional resource, you can drive traffic to your site and gain a backlink.
Almost all of these types of backlinks are no-follow, but these types of links are part of a natural backlink profile.
You can also leave helpful comments underneath relevant blog articles containing a link to a page on your site.
This tactic has a bad reputation due to being overused by spammy online marketers, but it can be an effective way to get a few more links and some more exposure.
9. Reverse Engineering Competitors’ Links
Your competitors are the sites you want to outrank.
Reverse engineering their backlink profile can be an effective way to pick up links and get an advantage in the search results.
Paid tools like Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, and Moz come into their own when it comes to analyzing your competitors’ backlinks.
But most of these tools offer free trials or a limited number of searches per day if you’re operating on a tight budget.
Let’s use Ubersuggest as an example.
Head over to Ubersuggest, and click on “Backlinks” in the left-hand menu.
Enter your competitor’s URL into the search box and click “search”.
The tool will return a results page that looks like this:
You can see a breakdown of the referring domains linking your competitor’s site, the domain score (domain authority), and useful information like the anchor text and page score.
The next step is to work your way through the data and work out how your competitor managed to get each link.
If your competitor gained a link by submitting a guest post to a website, reach out to the referring domain owner and ask if you can submit a guest post.
If there is a particular influencer or website that has linked multiple times to your competitor, reach out, and try to build a relationship.
By picking up your competition’s most powerful backlinks, you’ll be able to close the gap and overtake them in the SERP.
How to Find Prospects for Link Building
Google can be one of the most effective tools for finding backlink opportunities.
You can find hundreds if not thousands of linking opportunities without splashing out on a paid tool.
The sites that rank high in Google search results usually have the highest domain authority.
Those are the sites you want to get backlinks from.
Here are five free prospecting tips for building your list of potential backlinks.
1. Google Searches
The easiest way to find opportunities for guest posting is to conduct a Google search.
Head to Google and type in any of the following search phrases, replacing topic with keywords in your niche.
- Topic “write for us”
- Topic “guest post”
- Topic “guest post guidelines”
- Topic “submit guest post”
- Topic “contribute a guest post”
Here’s an example of the results for a quick search in the yoga niche:
As you can see, there are a number of relevant websites that accept guest posts.
The next step is to run a quick check of the site’s domain authority and check how often it is updated.
Read the guest post guidelines and send the webmaster an email asking if you can submit a post in exchange for a backlink.
2. List of Blogs/Influencers
This method can be a great way to get a quick list of backlink opportunities.
You can easily find lists of the top blogs, influencers, and experts in your niche by searching Google.
The creators of these lists have basically done the hard work for you.
Head to Google and search for any of the following terms replacing topic with keywords in your niche:
- “best “topic” blogs”
- “top “topic” blogs”
- “best “topic” bloggers”
- “topic” “experts to follow”
Sticking with yoga as an example, here’s what a search for “top yoga blogs” returned:
This should give you a bunch of guest posting opportunities.
Work your way through each list, and make sure to check each website mentioned to see if it is regularly updated and has a decent domain authority.
Add the contact information of the site owner and URL of the website to your link list.
It’s a good idea to build up a substantial list before you begin the outreach process.
3. Comment Search
Aside from the two methods mentioned above, you can use Google to find blogs in your niche by searching for keywords in the blogs’ comments sections.
This will show you lots of bloggers in your niche and potential backlink opportunities.
You may also find online communities in your niche that you might have been unaware of.
Head over to Google and enter one of the following search terms, replacing topic with a keyword in your niche:
- Topic “leave a reply”
- Topic “post comment”
- Topic “notify me of follow-up comments”
Here’s an example in the yoga niche:
You’ll often find that this type of Google search eliminates the company and business blogs that are harder to get a backlink from.
The websites in the results are typically run by a single blogger and are usually open to guest posts.
Company blogs are generally more challenging to get backlinks from due to the nature of the business and the busy schedules of the people running the blog.
Part-time and full-time bloggers are usually much more open to collaboration and accepting guest posts than business blogs.
4. Advanced Search
Google offers a bunch of advanced search operators that can help you find blogs and niche websites you might have overlooked.
Allintext search operator instructs Google to filter the results for a search query and only show the web pages that contain a specific keyword.
For example, if you were looking for guest posting opportunities in the yoga niche, you could enter allintext:yoga tips:
The results page will only show pages that have the keyword “yoga tips”.
This can be a great way to find additional backlink opportunities that have slipped through the net during your previous searches.
5. Social Media
This method involves getting away from Google and using social media platforms to find link prospects.
You can use the search features on social media platforms to find blogs and influencers you couldn’t find using Google.
It’s a super easy and effective technique.
For example, if you are looking for link prospects in the yoga niche, you can head over to Twitter and use the search feature.
Enter search terms like:
- Topic “blogger”
- Topic “influencer”
- Topic “guru”
For example, if we search for “yoga blogger” in Twitter, it returns a results page like this:
As you can see, by conducting a simple search, there are a bunch of backlink opportunities.
You can investigate each profile and see if the Twitter user has a blog or website.
If they have a high-quality site, send them an email or direct message to get the conversation started.
Link building is a vital pillar of your SEO strategy.
It can be one of the more difficult tasks for a beginner, but it’s also what separates high ranking affiliate websites from the sites that never take off.
If you get good at link building, you’ll have a huge competitive advantage over your rival affiliates.
The tactics mentioned above can work on websites in any niche.
You may find that some techniques work better than others, but that comes with testing and seeing which is more effective for you.
Once you’ve got a link building process in place, you’ll see your visibility in search results increase and the number of sites naturally linking back to you rise too.
More people visiting your site, more affiliate sales, and more money in your bank account.