Link Building and SEO: It’s Still About the Links in 2023

a close up of a metal chain on a stone surface

So you want to be an SEO or rank a website? Sure, no problem, as long as you know how to build links. Arguably the most difficult aspect of search engine optimization and the biggest factor in determining whether you rank for a keyword or not is your backlinks.

Many, including Google, will tell you links don’t matter as much as they used to. That’s BS, and anyone who has used Google over the last 10 years can attest to it. Your results are largely based on the quality and quantity of the links back to your website.

Sure, a few other factors can play a role in whether a piece of content ranks. Some are the quality and helpfulness of the content, the structure of the content and site, the title tag, the internal links, and the keyword’s competitiveness.

Nothing is as important to ranking as gaining incredible quality links back to your site and content, NOTHING!

This article will explain what you need to know about link building and SEO and why link building is still the most important element outside of creating a decent piece of link-worthy content. Let’s dive in.

What is Link Building?

Link building is a bit different than linked buildings

Link building is quite a bit different than linked buildings.

Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. These links are often referred to as “backlinks” or “inbound links.”

The purpose is to improve the search engine ranking potential of a website and its content by showing search engines that other authoritative websites consider the site to be valuable and relevant.

When a website has a high number of quality backlinks, it signals to search engines that the site is trustworthy and credible, which can lead to higher rankings in search results.

This definition seems plausible and logical, but the results often don’t add up.

There are thousands of pieces of content that have hundreds or thousands of that point to it, and yet it fails to crack the top 10 in Google.

Long vs Short Content

Blog Tyrant from CoSchedule research finding posts between 2000 and 2500 words typically rank best.

Google states that short content is fine as long as it answers the query, but that is really not true in most searches. A short article is less likely to gain a top position in the search results unless it has amassed a huge volume of links pointing to it and to the domain.

In fact, the average length of articles in top search engine rank positions averages over 2,000 to 2,500 words for almost all competitive queries. Each niche will have its own benchmarks, but in our industry, content length is even longer on average than 2,500.

We’ve run several tests, and our research shows both content length and other competitive benchmarks are much higher, making it highly unlikely new blogs can crack the top 10 results.

Here are just a few of the results of our tests.

We tested the average word counts across 15 different queries in our niche to determine what content length needed to be just to compete with the top 10 results.

We also looked at the average URL rating, average number of backlinks, referring domains, and domain rating.

Here is a sample of our test results across three competitive queries.

affiliate marketing guide | volume 150 | KD: 78

Top 10 results – all averages

  1. Backlinks – 7,267.9
  2. Referring domains – 751
  3. URL rating – 24.1
  4. Domain rating – 88.9
  5. Word count – 6,768.5

dropshipping guide | volume 300 | KD: 55

Top 10 results – all averages

  1. Backlinks – 830.6
  2. Referring domains – 239.9
  3. URL rating – 15.9
  4. Domain rating – 86.5
  5. Word count – 4,078.3

how to use WordPress | volume 1,800 | KD: 75

Top 10 results – all averages

  1. Backlinks – 24,291.1
  2. Referring domains – 4,738.6
  3. URL rating – 21.9
  4. Domain rating – 90.3
  5. Word count – 5,980.9 (3 results showed zero word count)

As you can see from our testing, the average word count hovers somewhere around 5,600 words, and the top 10 results average an incredibly high DR of close to 90… and most have a ton of backlinks.

Why is Link Building Important?

Cyclone Fence in Shallow Photography

Without links, an acknowledgment from another that your content is worthy, helpful, trustable, or in some other way substantial, you won’t rank in search engine results. It’s as simple as that.

A site that has not garnered the level of trust to be removed from Google’s proverbial “sandbox” is not to be seen in the top 10 results unless it is for a nuanced keyword term that is so non-competitive and has limited to no search volume.

Links are critical to obtaining search engine visibility. Without them, your content will not get to your audience. Without links, you can write an incredibly helpful article and have it sit idle for months or years until you’ve earned enough random natural links to start a momentum shift that takes it up the search engine results.

By that time, you’ll have needed to enhance or rework the content at least once and promote it on social media and other outlets to get enough visibility for other sites to link to it.

Therefore, you must be building links constantly to help build search engine value for your content and your website as a whole. They are as essential to website value as creating excellent content.

Let’s find out the best way to build links and dissect a backlink a bit more so you can best understand how to move forward.

How To Build Links

seo, webpage, back links

The recommended methods for link building that Google approves are to ask for links from external websites and to earn links. Any other method falls somewhere outside of being a “white hat” SEO technique, and you can be penalized for it.

Ask for Links

Asking for links is a popular approach to link building in which website owners reach out to other websites and ask them to link back to their content. This approach is often used as a way to build relationships with other websites in the same niche or industry and can help increase visibility and traffic to a website.

It’s important to note that asking for links should be done strategically and with care, as spammy or low-quality link requests can harm a website’s reputation and search engine rankings.

To succeed with this type of link building campaign, it’s important to identify relevant websites and content that would benefit from linking back to your own content and then crafting personalized outreach messages that offer value and demonstrate why linking back would benefit both parties.

If you undertake this effort, be prepared for most of your requests to go unanswered. Many bloggers receive hundreds of these types of queries per month, and at some point, they become nothing more than noise in their inboxes.

RhinoRank just released some statistics that said 74%-78% of websites ignore link requests. This is important as it means your link building work will ultimately take you more time and resources.

You will need to find an approach that works for you to build quality links using this method.

Earn Links

The most preferred method for building SEO value is earning links. This link-building approach involves creating high-quality content that other websites link to because it is resourceful. This can include blog posts, articles, infographics, and other types of content.

The idea is that by creating valuable and engaging content, other websites will naturally want to link back to your website as a source of information or reference. You’ll receive high-quality links by providing great content. You can indeed use this link building method for SEO growth, but it will take time.

HubSpot does this exceptionally well on its blog. They consistently offer templates, downloadables, and other free assets, which generate more links for them than any other method.

Ultimately, the key to successful link-building is creating relevant, informative, and helpful content for your target audience while being shareable and valuable enough for other websites to link back to.

If you decide that your content should be the method to earn backlinks, you’ll want to heavily promote it on social media, forums, and on other public sites where you can grow an audience that can help share your content to extend its reach. Be prepared to spend a few years developing content that will attract links and enough attention to help you rank.

Or take a faster approach by building out the following types of content. These content types typically earn more backlinks than standard blog posts or articles as they tend to stand out better and help your website build a reputation for being a resource.

  1. infographics
  2. statistics posts
  3. case studies
  4. original research
  5. quizzes
  6. calculators
  7. tutorials
  8. checklists
  9. free resources (graphics, icons, images, logos, designs, backgrounds, audio clips, etc.)

If these types of resource pages don’t fit within your capabilities, you can try other link building strategies such as link reclamation, broken link building, and other methods to generate links that can provide some value.

You can also strengthen your internal links to ensure you don’t have orphaned pages. This link building strategy can help site owners earn some link value by leveraging pages with high PR to feed lower PR pages. Internal linking is valuable and should not be dismissed, but it will not replace the need for executing other link building tactics.

The Basics of Link Building Metrics

Black and White Round Magnifying Glass on White Printer Paper

To understand how to build better links, it is wise to learn the basics of how links work. There are two metrics to any backlink as measured by SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush, and others.

These two metrics are what help determine the quality of a backlink. They are the page rank or PR, and the domain rank or DR. Each of the tools mentioned uses a slightly different nomenclature and algorithm to calculate these values.

For example, Ahrefs uses page and domain rank, while Moz uses page and domain authority, PA, and DA. And SEMrush uses a different nomenclature than either of these.

Regardless of which tool you use to evaluate your links, the values may be different, but conceptually they are all the same. For this post, we will explore page rank and domain rank in more detail.

Page Rank

Page rank will help measure the authority of a web page in link building. It is based on the number and quality of backlinks that point to a specific web page. The higher the number and quality of backlinks, the higher the page rank will be. Page rank is important in link building because it helps determine which pages are most valuable for acquiring backlinks.

By targeting high page rank pages, you can improve your website’s authority and increase its search engine rankings. Ahrefs uses a proprietary algorithm to calculate page rank based on factors such as the number of unique linking domains, the quality of those links, and the relevance of those links to the content on the page.

Domain Rank

Domain rank is a metric used to measure the authority of a website in relation to other websites on the internet. It is based on the number and quality of external links pointing to a website and the overall quality and relevance of the website’s content.

The higher the domain rank, the more authoritative and trustworthy a website is considered to be. This is important when it comes to link building, as getting backlinks from high-ranking websites can help boost a site’s own domain rank and improve its search engine rankings.

Ahrefs Backlink Profile –

When we closely examine a backlink profile, we look at a panel that resembles something like this depending on the website you are reviewing.

Backlink profile for for link building and SEO article

As you can see, the DR for this site is 72, which is high. The scale for domain rank is 0-100. The AR here is another proprietary Ahrefs indicator of success.

This AR shows how a website is rated in terms of its organic traffic volume, with a site ranked 1 which would be the most visited website organically on the web.

The UR is how many links point back to that specific page on the website. In this example, the homepage is calculated. The next sections show the total number of backlinks currently being counted or recognized in the Ahrefs system as well as the number of referring domains. It also shows the all-time numbers below for reference.

The last section relates to Ahrefs measurement of organic traffic value, meaning the measurement of how many keywords the site ranks for, how many are in the top 3 positions within Google’s SERPs, and how much those ranked keywords are worth if you had to purchase that volume of traffic for your website.

Essentially, you would measure this value to determine how powerful a site this is as related to similar sites, and in acquiring a backlink, you would use these metrics in part to determine that a website is worth attempting to earn or ask for a link.

The other part you would need to evaluate before determining if you would approach the site owner for a backlink would be the niche. You’d want to determine the relationship the content has to your particular niche to see if the content is relatable enough for a backlink to be both effective and acceptable.

The Best Link-Building Strategies

person working on blue and white paper on board

When assessing the strategies you might employ to build links back to your website, you’ll likely find many who discuss linking strategies and tactics you are not familiar with or likely able to do without fear of repercussion in search results.

Certain tactics will become available as your site or blog grows over time. There will be many that you won’t logically be able to take on due to a lack of money, resources, or time or because your website is simply too new.

So, how do you overcome these challenges?

Glad you asked. The key here is to continue to build great and helpful content and promote that via social media, email, forums, and other online channels where your voice and brand can start to grow some authority.

This authority is essential to build trust, and trust is what you need to improve in the eyes of Google and other major search engines.

Without building expertise, authority, and trust, you won’t be able to capture enough backlinks to grow your organic visibility. Even as you grow these, earning your way out of Google’s sandbox will take time to achieve steadfast organic rankings.

A blog or website can easily take two or more years of steady asking and earning backlinks to start to show significant results in Google. The niche and its overall competitiveness can also move the time to rank forward or backward.

Some niches are more saturated and covered than others, and some niches have major players who will always dominate, making it more difficult for new blogs to earn visibility.

Read Next: Rank Math: Constructing Better SEO Results

What Makes a Good Backlink?

What Makes a Good Backlink? - a row of yellow stars sitting on top of a blue and pink surface

The elements of a backlink you want to consider are authority, relevance, placement, anchor text, and if the link is a nofollow or dofollow link.

Additionally, you want to look at whether your link is marked as sponsored, meaning you paid for it, or they were compensated in some way, and if it is marked as UGC, meaning it is user-generated content, i.e. you, putting a link in the comments section or adding your own thoughts somewhere within a forum.

These two types of links can be valuable, but they are looked at differently than if those not marked with those indicators. Let’s review the elements of what makes a link valuable so you know what to look for when addressing your backlink needs.


In the world of link building, the authority of a backlink refers to the quality and credibility of the website that is linking back to your site. Essentially, a backlink from a high-authority website (such as a well-established news outlet or a government agency) is considered more valuable than a backlink from a low-authority site (such as a personal blog or spammy website).

This is because search engines like Google place more weight on links from trusted sources and use these links as an indicator of the quality and relevance of your content.

To build high-quality backlinks that will improve your search engine rankings, it’s important to focus on earning links from reputable websites in your industry or niche.


Generally speaking, backlinks from high-quality websites that are relevant to your niche or industry are considered more valuable than links from low-quality or unrelated sites.

To build effective backlinks, it’s important to focus on creating high-quality content that people will want to share and link to naturally.

Finding opportunities for backlinks within your industry and/or niche can provide more value than a backlink from outside your area of specialization. That being said, there are some instances where this doesn’t hold true.

Backlinks from news sites and mega-conglomerate websites outweigh any other relevant factor depending on placement, which we’ll go over next.

Therefore, a link on NBC, Google, HuffPost, or other high DR news sites will outweigh a DR40 food blog in terms of value for a food blogging site.


Backlink placement is an important factor in building quality backlinks to your blog because the placement of the link can affect its credibility and visibility.

When search engines evaluate the quality of a backlink, they consider where the link is located on the page, how it is anchored, and the relevance of the content surrounding it.

Generally, links that are placed within the main body of text are considered more valuable than those placed in navigation menus or footers. Additionally, links that are surrounded by relevant and high-quality content are more likely to be seen as credible by both search engines and users.

By strategically placing your backlinks within relevant and high-quality content, you can increase their visibility and authority, ultimately driving more traffic to your blog and improving your search engine rankings.

Anchor Text

Backlink anchor text is an important factor in building quality backlinks to your blog because it helps search engines understand the content of the linked page. When another website links to your blog, the anchor text is the clickable text that appears as the hyperlink.

By using relevant and descriptive anchor text, you can signal to search engines what the linked page is about, which can improve its rankings in search results for related queries.

Anchor text is a double-edged sword. Overly salesy or keyword-specific anchor text can be considered spammy and can impact your search engine rankings. Try to avoid over-optimizing anchor text by using exact match keywords excessively, as this can be seen as a manipulative tactic and may result in penalties from search engines.

Instead, aim to use natural language and variations of your target keywords in anchor text to create high-quality backlinks that provide value to both users and search engines.

Nofollow vs. Dofollow

A dofollow backlink is a hyperlink that directs traffic from one website to another and also passes along some of the link juice or SEO value of the referring site. In contrast, a nofollow backlink contains code that tells search engines not to follow or pass on any SEO value to the linked site.

While both types of backlinks can be beneficial for driving traffic to your site, dofollow links are generally considered more valuable in terms of building your website’s authority and improving its search engine rankings.

This is because they indicate to search engines that other sites view your content as valuable and relevant, which in turn can boost your site’s credibility and visibility online.

That being said, it’s important to note that a natural backlink profile should include a mix of both dofollow and nofollow links. This helps signal to search engines that your site’s links are coming from various sources rather than just one type of link.

Ultimately, the key to successful link building is creating high-quality content that others want to link to naturally, regardless of whether those links are dofollow or nofollow.


When a backlink is labeled as “sponsored,” it means that the link was paid for or exchanged for some kind of compensation. This type of backlink is often used in digital marketing and advertising to help boost search engine rankings and drive traffic to a website.

It’s important to note that search engines like Google have specific guidelines around sponsored links, and failure to comply with these guidelines can result in penalties or even removal from search results.

To ensure compliance, sponsored links should be clearly labeled as such, and the link should not pass link value and should include a nofollow attribute. While sponsored backlinks can benefit businesses, it’s crucial to follow best practices and guidelines to avoid any negative consequences.

User-Generated Content

UGC stands for User Generated Content when it is added to a backlink. This means that the link was created by a user rather than the website owner or administrator. UGC can include anything from blog comments and forum posts to social media shares and product reviews.

Backlinks from UGC are considered valuable because they often come from real users who have experienced the product or service firsthand. As such, they provide an authentic and trustworthy perspective on the linked content.

When creating backlinks, it’s important to consider the quality and relevance of the linking page and the context in which the link appears. By incorporating UGC into your backlink strategy, you can improve your website’s authority and credibility while also providing value to your users.

Read Next: Fiverr SEO Services: How Does Fiverr Work?

SEO and Link Building Final Thoughts

When creating backlinks, always consider the quality and relevance of the linking page and context. By following best practices, you can boost search engine rankings and drive traffic to your website. Link building is not easy, not fun, and is overly time-consuming. Link building is also one of the most important elements of SEO needing to be performed if you intend to gain any sort of search engine rankings.

Whether you run a hobby blog, a money blog, or intend to monetize some other form of content, you will need to earn backlinks as SEO is still about backlinks, and the game is getting much more challenging than ever in 2023.

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