From Zero to Hero: 5 Things to Do When You Have No Backlinks
It’s been said that having too much of something is a bad thing.
But that’s not always true in the world of link building.
You see, websites that shy away from building backlinks could be left with a failing SEO strategy; one where you’re struggling to make the top 50 pages—never mind Position 1.
In this case, you’re never going to see any search traffic to your website.
Isn’t that dull?
Now, you might’ve spun into a world of panic after realizing you’ve got no backlinks.
But don’t worry.
If you’re stuck with no backlinks and a site that’s sinking faster than a flooded boat, here’s what you’ll need to do.
What’s the Deal with Having No Backlinks?
I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs: You already know that building high-quality backlinks is crucial for websites to rank in Google.
Backlinks are the foundations of SEO. Acting as a reputation tool for Google to assess how relevant, popular and authoritative your website is, backlinks have a heavy influence on how well your website will rank in the SERPs.
(Think of them like Google’s mini-spies. If a ton of them are fluttering around your website, there must be something interesting going on!)
Just take a look at this data. When Matthew Barby and Ahrefs analyzed over a million pages from the SERPs, they revealed an undeniable connection between backlinks and Google rankings:
Notice how many backlinks point to the pages in the first spot? That proves their importance.
…But what exactly does this mean for your website?
Well, in order to see any volume of search traffic to your website, you’ll need to have a tailored SEO strategy—based on those all-important backlinks.
However, building backlinks to your website isn’t as easy as it might seem. Collecting 10,000+ links is unlikely to happen overnight (unless your content goes viral!), and it’s not uncommon for website owners to feel disheartened when they create awesome content and fail to see any new additions to their backlink profile.
When you’re trying to get links to your website, there’s one thing to remember: The “build it, and they will come” philosophy rarely works.
You’ll need a strategic plan to build these SEO-rich links—and an even mightier one to build them organically.
How to Find Out Whether You Have Backlinks
Are you brand new to SEO? Perhaps you’ve been doing it for a while, but still aren’t sure about the power of your website.
Either way, there’s a chance you’re asking yourself: “Do I have any backlinks pointing to my website?”
Well, my friend, it’s your lucky day.
I’m giving you a free 30-day trial of the Monitor Backlinks software. You’ll be able to sign in and view your entire backlink profile, and track your site’s SEO performance like a boss.
Once you’ve signed up (and grabbed this bargain!), you’ll want to head to the Your Links tab.
Detailing every link pointing to your website, it’s the perfect place to check where you’re starting from (backlink-wise).
You’ll also find various SEO metrics associated with each website linking to you—including Spam Score, Domain Authority, Trust and Citation Flow, and more—so you can accurately judge their quality.
I told you it was a bargain!
The Foundations: 4 Steps to Prepare Your Site for a Ton of New Backlinks
Don’t see anything in your backlink profile? Then you don’t have any backlinks pointing to your site.
But that’s not the end of the world! Don’t let out a sigh of disappointment just yet, my friend.
I’m going to share how you can perfect your website for the best chances of gaining backlinks organically, and get it prepared for all the new backlinks you’re about to build.
Aren’t I nice?
1. Perfect Your URL Structure
When preparing your site, the first thing you’ll need to do is double-check that your URL structure isn’t going to cause any link building problems.
At this point, I’ll bet you’re wondering: “How can URLs affect my chances of getting a link?”
The answer is simple: People might be hesitant to link to URLs if they look a little fishy. In fact, you’re probably the same.
Let’s do a little experiment. Which one of these URLs would you be more inclined to link to from your own website?
Chances are, you chose option B. The majority of other website owners would pick the same option, too. It looks cleaner and more trustworthy, right?
Messy and unorganized URLs can also affect Google rankings for that same reason.
Search engine spiders want to crawl pages that are easy to understand. If they land on the URL and get a bad first impression, why would they want to rank the page higher?
When Backlinko studied 1+ million SERPs, they found shorter (and cleaner) URLs ranked higher than messy ones:
Plus, Matt Cutts, former Head of Web Spam at Google, said this happens because the search engine places less weight on each word:
“If you have got three, four or five words in your URL, that can be perfectly normal. As it gets a little longer, then it starts to look a little worse. Now, our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.
The thing to be aware of is, ask yourself: “How does this look to a regular user?”—because if, at any time, somebody comes to your page or, maybe, a competitor does a search and finds 15 words all strung together like variants of the same word, then that does look like spam, and they often will send a spam report. Then somebody will go and check that out.”
So, follow this URL structure to help your site go from no backlinks to thousands:
- Category pages: URL.com/primary-keyword
- Blog posts: URL.com/blog/primary-keyword
(Psst… If you do manage to build links to messy URLs, you might be setting yourself up for a bigger job later down the line. You might need to redirect those messy URLs to cleaner structures, which isn’t difficult—but redirecting broken backlinks does take time.)
2. Double-Check Your Website’s Usability
Is your site taking ages to load? If your audience can pick their kids up from school and do the weekly shop before your site loads, that could be why you’ve got no backlinks.
The reason why goes back to the idea of site owners being diligent about handing links to dodgy websites.
If their audience can’t visit it easily, what’s the point of linking to it?
In Google’s eyes, poor site usability is a no-go, too. That’s because search engines want to display the highest-quality results for a user’s query. Your site won’t hit the top spots if it’s taking 30+ seconds to load a blog post because it worsens user experience—a well-known ranking factor in any search engine’s algorithm.
In fact, just a second-long delay in your page loading speed could see your site suffer from:
- 7% fewer conversions
- A 16% reduction in customer satisfaction (or user experience)
- 11% less page views
…But how long should your page take to load? The answer depends on your industry:
Local and classified websites tend to have the shortest loading speed (7.9 seconds), whereas technology websites take much longer to show (11.3 seconds).
Whichever industry you’re in, one thing still stands: Your loading time needs to be as fast as possible.
You can find any issues with your site’s loading speed by running it through Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This free tool, created by Google, will show your website’s loading speed, and identify areas for improvement:
There’s nothing better than getting it straight from the horse’s mouth, right?
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your Google Search Console account—no matter how old your website is. This is how Google communicates with site owners, so you’ll receive alerts for any usability issues that could be damaging your SEO.
However, you don’t have to rely on these fancy tools to get a basic understanding of your site’s readability. Just use some common sense, and:
- Avoid light text on dark backgrounds
- Get rid of annoying pop-ups
- Make loading speeds faster by compressing large files
3. Optimize Your Site for Mobile
Did you know that more people are using Google on their mobile than ever before? It’s even overtaken traditional desktop usage:
…I know, it’s pretty shocking stuff.
Because mobile internet usage is reigning supreme, it likely won’t come as a shock to hear that Google is rewarding sites that are easily accessible by mobile devices.
In fact, Google now runs on a mobile-first algorithm. That means it rewards sites that can be viewed on mobile with higher rankings, and looks to this before their appearance on a desktop.
To cash in on this and prepare your website for an abundance of new backlinks, you can opt for:
- Responsive web design: where the design adjusts automatically depending on the device.
- Mobile-first design: where the design is optimized for mobile first, and desktop second.
- Mobile sub-domains: where mobile visitors see a different URL (i.e. m.site.com).
4. Create Linkable Assets and Content
You can’t expect people to link to your website if you’re not giving them a reason to.
It’s a bit like opening a grocery store without actually stocking any groceries. Why would people come?
For this reason, you’ll need to prepare your site and publish high-quality content. If people can link to a piece of actionable, long-form content that’ll provide their audience with extra value, why wouldn’t they link to it?
You can start to create this linkable content by:
1. Doing keyword research to find longtail keywords that you can write about. For example, “no backlinks” or “SEO strategy.”
2. Writing the article, making it 2,000+ words in length.
3. Optimizing it for the keyword you chose by placing it in URLs, heading tags, meta tags and on-site content (where it sounds natural).
4. Sharing the link to your awesome content on social media and forums, and letting the world know it exists!
Backlinko use this approach to make sure they’re in the best position to collect new links. Just take a look at this article:
Optimized for the phrase “Google ranking factors,” Brian isn’t afraid to go all-in with his free content.
That’s why it’s hailed as a piece of 10x content, and has tons of great backlinks pointing to the URL. You can check them out with the Free Backlink Checker:
From Zero to Hero: 5 Things to Do When You Have No Backlinks
So, your website is ready and raring to go. You’re already in a better stance to gain links naturally, but your work here is still not finished!
That’s because you might need to take part in a bit of manual link building to get the ball rolling.
Worried? Anxious? Unsure of how you can ask for links in a non-spammy way?
Don’t panic: I’ve got the answer.
(I’ve actually got five answers, but who’s counting?)
1. Help a Reporter Out
Say hello to my sneaky way of building your first fantastic backlinks: Help A Reporter Out (or HARO, for short).
This service connects journalists to sources, and you could build a contextual backlink to your website’s homepage by offering your advice. That’s because these journalists send quote requests, asking sources to provide them with a quote to reference in their piece.
Here’s an example of a HARO request that was sent out recently:
If you could give an answer that contributes value to the journalist’s piece, they’re likely to include it (with a link back to your site, as credit)!
Even if you’re not interested in the particular source request above, that doesn’t rule HARO out as a link building tactic. In fact, the site offer several categories that sources can subscribe to, including:
- High tech
- Business and finance
- Lifestyle and fitness
As a freelance writer in the marketing space, I’m signed up for the business and finance category. A few months ago, I replied to a source request—and my prayers were answered when the quote was included in the final piece:
I got a contextual backlink from a website—with a Domain Authority of 65 and Page Authority of 41—in a matter of minutes:
Why wouldn’t you want to try it?
If you’re still not convinced, consider this: Some of these journalists work for SEO powerhouses like Forbes and the Huffington Post. They’ve got fantastic site metrics, and could jump-start your link building strategy in a way that many other less-authoritative sites couldn’t.
When you’re writing your HARO pitch, it’s important that your quote stands out.
Having been on both ends of the journalist and source spectrum, here’s how you can do that—and boost your chances of building a link from your contribution:
- Be unique; don’t regurgitate the same tip or piece of advice.
- Include everything the journalist asks for. That might be an image or headshot, author bio and/or job title.
- Add credibility. Prove you’re worth including in their piece by linking to your website or mentioning something impressive that you’ve done, such as a previous interview on a well-known blog.
- Offer to provide anything else they might need—including an interview, email follow-up or phone call.
…And that’s it! I told you it was a simple way to go from no backlinks to high-quality ones, didn’t I?
2. Start Guest Blogging
How many times have you heard the guest blogging debate?
Although Matt Cutts wrote an article saying that guest blogging was dead back in 2012, I think it’s still thriving—and a fantastic way to boost the number of backlinks pointing to your website, to this day.
That’s because guest blogging offers you the chance to borrow someone else’s audience.
By posting an excellent piece of content to a well-established blog with a targeted audience, you’re in with the chance of convincing them to visit your blog through the backlink in your author bio.
So, not only does it help to build links to sites with no backlinks, but you can experience a ton of new site traffic, too.
The only downside of guest blogging? The majority of sites that accept them only allow backlinks in the author bio section, like my posts on Monitor Backlinks:
Although this is great for brand awareness, search engines don’t place as much weight behind them as a contextual link in the body of the piece.
That’s not to say they’re pointless, though. In fact, they’re quite the opposite.
So, let’s get cracking!
The first thing you’ll need to do when using this link building tip is to line up your targets. You’re able to find sites that accept guest blog contributions by searching these variations:
- Industry + “write for us”
- Industry + “contribute”
- Industry + “submit”
- Industry + “guest post”
- Industry + “guest blog”
Here’s what that might look like for the SEO industry:
Once you’ve found your target, it’s time to pitch, right?
Not necessarily. Before diving in feet-first with your guest post pitch, you’ll need to analyze the website—and make sure it’s worth your while.
Pick websites that have great SEO metrics using these benchmarks:
- Domain Authority: 40+
- Spam Score: 3/12 (or fewer)
You’ll also need to sense-check that the website covers what your own website covers. There’s not much point in a pet food company publishing a guest post on an SEO blog, right?
Then, write your guest post pitch (free examples here!), and aim to create the best piece of content you’ve ever written for the best chances of being accepted.
You’ll soon have a great backlink from a popular site in your niche, like I got from Social Media Examiner (DA 84):
3. Publish High-Quality, Relevant Infographics
Acting as visual representations of statistics or blog posts, you could be onto a winner if you’re creating infographics to be hosted on your website.
That’s because infographics are liked and shared three times more than any other type of content.
In fact, Neil Patel generated over 10,000 social shares when he created four infographics.
What does that mean? In short: By creating these visual snippets of information (and sharing them on your blog/social media platforms), you could see a surge in the number of eyeballs on your content.
Some of these people could be site owners who are looking to give out backlinks from their blog.
To create your infographic, start by finding a unique topic in your industry that it can be based around.
For example, if you’re in the SEO industry, that could be something like “Google’s ranking factors.” If you’re in the clothing industry, maybe that could be “American fashion, through the years.”
Psst… If you think your industry is “too boring” for an infographic, Fisher Investments created one about debt in the U.S.:
Then, head over to Canva and select one of their infographic templates. These are free to use (and you won’t need to be a Photoshop genius to design one):
Now it’s the easy part: adding your information, and changing the colors to suit your brand.
Once your infographic is complete, save and upload it to your website. Blog posts tend to be the best format for this, as you’re able to optimize the page (with accompanying content) to help it rank organically.
And voila, your job here is done!
…But wait. Do you remember what I said earlier about linkable assets? Infographics are one of them; they give you substance to pitch to another blog, in the form of a guest post.
Simply upload the snazzy infographic to your website as normal, and pitch the story you’ve covered as a guest post. A quick message like this will do the job:
I love what you’re sharing on [blog]—especially [something you liked].
I’ve created an infographic on [topic], and I’m sure that your audience would love to read it on your blog.
Would you like me to send it over?
I’d be more than happy to write a unique 250-word introduction to this, should you want to publish it.
Note: Don’t send your infographic straight away—it can look forceful and spammy.
One study found that a two-step approach to this type of infographic outreach has a 40% response rate—versus just 16% when the infographic is sent with the first pitch:
4. Use the Broken Link Building Method
Broken link building happens when you find a site in your niche that’s pointing to a broken link. Since the site owner doesn’t want to ruin their audience’s experience by pointing them to a dodgy page, they’re likely to replace it, should they find a better alternative*.
*The “better alternative” is your piece of content.
You see, site owners don’t want to have tons of broken links on their website. Not only is it bad for user experience, but it doesn’t give them a great reputation to Google’s spiders.
So, you can take advantage of this (and get your site from no backlinks to a handful of high-quality ones!) by adding broken link building to your SEO to-do list.
To get started, simply download the Check My Links plugin. Every time you visit a website you’d love to get a backlink from, click the tool and you’ll instantly find any broken links on that page:
For each instance, ask yourself: Can I create an awesome resource to replace this with?
If so, do it!
Follow general best practices to create an awesome piece of content, such as:
- Adding visual elements—like infographics, embedded videos and graphs—to the page
- Making it long-form (2,000+ words)
- Writing an introduction that hooks your audience
- Using heading tags properly, including your keywords where appropriate
- Inserting relevant calls to action
Then, pitch it to the site owner.
Nikolay Stoyanov found massive success with this SEO technique. After finding broken links and pitching his better alternative, he managed to gain 15 links in a single day.
Wouldn’t we all like to see that kind of boost to our backlink profile?
5. Build Links Manually (Using Our Free Templates)
Here’s a fact about me: I don’t believe in the phrase “treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.”
That’s not my style.
So, in true Elise mode, I’ve gone above and beyond to help you on your link building journey.
I’ve created six free link building outreach email templates for every manual outreach job you’ll have to do, from guest blogging pitches to requests for replacing broken links with yours.
Wait: I’m still not finished.
Each six of these templates aren’t gated—meaning you can swipe them straight from the webpage, rather than parting with your email address—and are proven to get results.
Thank me later. (Preferably with a Starbucks caramel cream frappuccino, but I’ll also accept a pain au chocolat.)
From No Backlinks to Tons: Watch the Links Roll In…
Great job! You’ve prepared your site to take it from no backlinks to hundreds, and you’re on your way to building relationships with the people who could boost your site’s position in the SERPs.
Luckily for you, I’m going to part the wonderful (one-way) conversation we’ve had by reminding you about a nifty tool that’ll help you keep on top of your mission.
Monitor Backlinks sends email alerts whenever there’s a new addition to your backlink profile.
Built a link from a guest blog that’s recently been published? Has a HARO journalist added your quote to their piece?
Whatever link you’ve built, you’ll get a handy email notification to let you know:
(FYI, it’s one of the tools I use most. From someone who uses a tool or piece of software for any business task you can think of, I think you’ll understand how great it actually is.)
As you can see, getting your website off the ground isn’t a tricky task.
Once you’ve cleansed your site and gotten it in a good position to build links both naturally and manually, there’s no reason why you still have to suffer from no backlinks.
However, there’s one thing to remember: Just like SEO in general, link building can take time.
It might take a few weeks (and more than a few rejections) before you’re adding to your backlink profile.
But, stick with it. You’ll soon see results if you push hard enough!
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