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Links from other trusted websites can help the organic ranking of your website. This articles highlights how to achieve this through link earning, link building and Offsite SEO. 

Welcome back once again to our multi-part series exploring the basics of SEO. We hope you’re enjoying it so far! In case you missed the first two instalments, you can find them here:

Part 1 (Technical SEO)

Part 2 (Keywords and content)

In this article we’re going to take a closer look at what many regard as being one of the most important aspects of organic SEO –  the links pointing to your website from other websites.

Why should I care if people link to me or not?

As we explained briefly in our initial introductory post to the series, links are essentially ‘votes’ between one website and another, which allows the search engines to see which websites are popular on the web. The more (high quality) links a site has pointing towards it, the more the search engines will tend to trust it and view it as more of an authority. Think of sites like Wikipedia and Amazon – they have links from millions of websites, which sends strong signals to Google that these are heavyweight entities in their respective niches.

Crucially, it’s also more difficult for spammers to create needle-moving links at scale compared to something like social signals, which can be more easily automated. Google’s link quality algorithm (Penguin) will, for the most part, simply ignore the spammy links it finds. This makes them generally more reliable than other 3rd-party metrics.

Look at it as digital PR

Another way we can frame this is in the context of links as reflecting your brand and company on the web. Positive mentions in your industry’s major publications linking through to your site would be good, whereas large amounts of spammy, ad-heavy and irrelevant sites linking to you wouldn’t reflect the same level of trust in your brand.

What do I need to look for in a good link?

The main elements of what would constitute a quality link in terms of pages linking to you are as follows:

Relevance of the page, domain and anchortext

The sort of websites that you generally want to be receiving links from are those in the same industry as your own. For example, a pet blog or dog forum linking to a dog toys ecommerce website. This goes for both the main website topic and the topic of the page (although a relevant subsection on a website covering multiple topics is usually fine). Additionally, it’s best to have relevant anchortext (the text of the link itself) as this conveys signals to the search engines as to what the linked-to page is about. For product pages, this could simply be the product name. A link to a homepage might just be worded as the brand name which would also be appropriate.

Quality content

It goes without saying, the quality of content on a page that you’d like to link to you should be high. No-one wants to be linked to from a site spewing out wallpaper link spam, do they?! This can be very subjective and will also vary from industry to industry, but if you have a fairly good grasp of what would be considered good content in your own niche, it should be fairly straightforward.

In-body links

Links from within the body of a webpage are usually preferable to those from the sidebar (e.g. a blog roll link) or footer (media sites often link to their partner publications in such sections).  Links carry a lot more weight in the main body content area of a page. This is because search engines see such areas as being controlled in a much more editorial manner than links from template-driven site sections. It’s also where users will concentrate most of their attention. Links from a website’s sidebar can carry some value, but in general terms links from footers tend to not be that valuable.

Not too many links to other pages

If a page has a very large number of links to other websites on, this effectively dilutes the link ‘juice’ that might get passed on to your own page – anything up to 100 or so external links is fine. However, if there are many more external links than this on a page, the benefit your own site might derive from being listed will diminish considerably. This shouldn’t be a problem, although a page created expressly for the purpose of linking to other webpages might have more links on than you might like!

Authority and trust of the linking page

Essentially there are ‘power’ metrics which define how authoritative a page is and how trustworthy it is in the eyes of the search engines. Although difficult to measure without using paid tools such as Majestic, Moz or Ahrefs, they are a key element in determining quality prospects for your site (although relevance and quality should always be the most important factors).

As a general rule with these metrics a higher score is better. Although all tool providers use metrics based on a ‘logarithmic’ scale, which means that higher scores are proportionately better than lower ones. For example, a score of 20 will typically be more than twice as good as a score of 10.

What does ‘authority’ mean?

‘Authority’ is measured by how many links the site or page in question has and how much power those links drive. Generally speaking, higher is better.

How do I measure ‘Authority’?

There are several contemporary metrics that can be used here (tool providers are in brackets, most have a free trial option);

  • Domain Authority and Page Authority (Moz)
  • Domain and Page Level Citationflow (Majestic)
  • Domain Rating and URL Rating (Ahrefs)

All of the tools mentioned above have varying subscription costs depending on what package is chosen. Whilst the usage of them is not completely essential in order to conduct a link building campaign, we would nevertheless recommend signing up to one of these tools just for a month or two, to gather the data you need.


‘Trust’ is a slightly esoteric term when used in the context of links. Although the method with which search engines measure it can be outlined as:

  • Manually curating a ‘seed set’ of sites viewed as trustworthy (universities, libraries, government sites)
  • Seeing which sites those sites link to directly
  • Checking which sites are linked to from those sites

And so on and so forth. In a nutshell, the further away a website is in terms of link ‘distance’ from the original set of trusted sites, the less trustworthy it is seen as being. Getting a link directly from a university, government website or similar is therefore usually a good thing!

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If you want to talk to our specialist team about how we can help you with your digital marketing, talk to our team today.

How do I measure Trust?

Both Moztrust from Moz and Trustflow from Majestic provide an estimate of how trustworthy a domain or page is, which can be a good starting point. However, if a site looks spammy, yet has high metrics, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not contact it!

Measuring the organic traffic a potential link partner has

Going into a bit more detail here, we can have a look to see if the website we’re looking at has a reasonable level of organic traffic from Google. This is important for a couple of reasons:

  • The more organic traffic a site linking to you has, the more potential visitors will come to your site
  • High levels of organic traffic signify that the domain is well thought of by the search engines and is a reputable site.

There’s a few ways we can do this:

Free tools

Similarweb is a free online analytics tool that can be used on 3rd-party websites and gives an estimate of a number of things including:

  • How many visitors the site gets
  • Where they come from (organic, paid, social etc)
  • An estimate of the top 5 keywords driving traffic to the site

This can all be helpful for determining if a site would be a good partner or not. Similarweb tends to work best on larger (in terms of visitor numbers) websites, as the database doesn’t have as much coverage of smaller-scale sites.

Paid options

We recommend SEMrush for looking at organic profiles of 3rd-party sites in more detail. Although there are alternatives such as Seachmetrics as well. SEMrush also allows you to do in-depth analysis of the paid campaigns used on a website, which can be great for pay-per-click analysis of competitors.

How do I get links?

There are a wide variety of ways to obtain links from other sites to your own, most of which involve content or giving away something of value. However, there are some ways to get quality links from other sites that don’t require this. It’s best to establish what kind of resources you think you’ll likely have access to in order to avoid disappointment. For example, do you have an in-house content or PR team that can produce content for you?

For all the below, we’d recommend trying out several techniques and seeing what works best for you. Also, having a wide variety of links is more natural for your site and reduces the chances that Google might accidentally penalise you for manipulative practices (we should stress this is unlikely!)

For any website:

Take a content inventory first

It’s vital to understand what ‘linkable assets’ your site has. What we mean by this is any content, tools, calculators, downloadable resources, infographics, whitepapers and so on that someone in your industry would find  useful, entertaining or informative. If we can build up an inventory of assets such as this, we can begin to build a plan around how to promote them. One way we can do this is with….

Links pages

Pages with lists of links or resources, that are created for the purposes of curating content, can be great places to get certain pages on your site listed and provide natural editorial links.

To find links pages, type in your keyword, industry or niche along with any of the following:

  • Links
  • Resources
  • inurl:links
  • inurl:resources
  • intitle:links
  • intitle:resources

The inurl: and intitle: parts of the above do what they say on the tin. Namely, restrict searches to pages that contain the term in either the title or the URL. This is a handy way of narrowing down to the sort of pages we might want to look at.

Here’s what a links page typically looks like (e.g. for paleo diet resources)

Making Contact

Once you’ve found a few such pages, and checked them against the criteria mentioned above, simply email the webmaster letting them know about the content you have that is a good fit for the page. This will fall into a few different categories depending on what resources your site has and what the structure of the target links page is:

Homepage – links to your homepage would typically come from partner businesses, charities, links pages for top-level providers (e.g. a list of pet charities in the North of England) business roundups or anything else where mentioning your site/brand as a whole would make sense.

Content – This can take many forms, but common ones include infographics, whitepapers or detailed topic guides. There has to be a substantial amount of ‘value add’ for content proposals for links pages – a cookie-cutter 500-word blog post won’t be enough!

Tools (calculators, interactive webpages, and so on) – webmasters curating content are generally happy to link to web-based resources that their users would find useful. For example, one of our clients (who sell pond equipment and products) have several pond-related calculators for working out pond volume, how much sealant you need for your pond, etc. Even seemingly simple tools can be worthy candidates for promotion if they’re useful or interesting enough.

Alternative contact methods

There are a few variations on just politely asking for a link from these sorts of pages such as:

Broken link building – identifying any broken (status code 404) links on the page(s) you find and suggesting your content as a replacement.

The Moving Man Method (pioneered by Bran Dean at Backlinko) – this involves finding expired domains in your industry, seeing who links to them (usually using paid tools) and seeing if any of them have links from pages where you can acquire a link. For example, a competitor that has since gone out of business might be a valuable source of links, if you know what their domain was and if you know they had been doing plenty of content marketing in the form of infographics, linkbait content, etc.

Guest Posts

A guest post is exactly what it sounds like – an article written by you, placed on someone else’s website. Although guest posting is typically done between members of the blogging community, an increasing number of brands are using it as a great way of engaging with potential audiences through native content placement. As well as the SEO value of in-content editorial links, recurring guest post placements on sites  can really help to build a loyal audience away from your own platform.

To find sites offering guest posts, use any of your main site’s keywords in conjunction with the following in Google:

  • “guest post”
  • “guest article”
  • “guest post guidelines”

It may also be worth adding site:uk to the end of your query if you’re specifically looking for UK websites (this can be applied to other approaches as well). Also, make sure you’re using google.co.uk rather than google.com, as this will slightly increase the bias towards UK results.

Once you’ve found some decent-looking websites, read the guidelines, if there are any (see below), and simply send the webmaster a polite email asking if they’re currently accepting posts (you could take the opportunity to pitch some topic ideas here, as well).

Things to bear in mind with guest posts

Bloggers and publications often have guidelines

It’s important to respect the guidelines that blogs and publications set for submissions or your post may not be accepted. Generally the more higher-tier the publication is, the more stringent the requirements are. Although this is not always the case.

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If you want to talk to our specialist team about how we can help you with your digital marketing, talk to our team today.

Quality is essential

Google has historically taken punitive action on guest posts written purely for links. These sorts of posts often exhibit one or more of the following qualities:

  • Short (under 500 words)
  • Generic content that doesn’t add value
  • Poor grammar and spelling
  • Little use of media or formatting (paragraphs of text only with no subheadings or obvious structure)
  • No author bio
  • Posted under a pseudonym or as an anonymous author

Writing more detailed content, that meets the needs of the users of the website you’re writing the post for, and including details about the author (which ideally should be consistent from site to site) should alleviate any problems with the above.


Although directories are often thought of as being a low-quality way of getting links, due to malpractice by webmasters in the past, this only applies to generic directories built for SEO with no real user value. The right kind of directories can help both users and search engines find your site online. The kind of directories we’re interested in, at a top level, are:

  • Local directories (For example, listing businesses in your town or city)
  • Niche-specific directories (e.g. a directory of websites for dog owners for your pet ecommerce store)

In terms of what to look for in more detail; only submit your site to directories that:

  • Are actually easy to use – many directories are built purely for search engines and are not user friendly
  • Don’t have too many ads, especially above the fold (top part of the page before you scroll down)
  • Require no reciprocal linking – many sites will ask you to link to them to receive a link, which can look shady if done to excess.
  • Are human-reviewed – we want to be in directories that care about the sites listed within them, rather than those run by lazy webmasters who aren’t bothered!

Either of these sites would be good examples to look further into on initial inspection. The first being a directory for pet-related businesses:

The second, below, is an example of a local York business directory:

Either would be suitable, although only for businesses that were relevant (a York-based pet supplies store would be ideal for both of the above obviously, whereas a Jewelers based in Easingwold may only be suitable for one of them!).

Strategies specific to ecommerce sites

There are some strategies that can be applied specifically for ecommerce sites which would otherwise be difficult to promote when the site mostly consists of product pages. We’ve listed a couple of our favourites below!

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If you want to talk to our specialist team about how we can help you with your digital marketing, talk to our team today.

Product reviews

Bloggers love to receive products from their favourite brands.  This can be a great way to get your products exposed to a wider audience, as well as building more links to your domain.

Here’s a simple strategy you could use:

  • Google “list of (industry, keyword or topic) uk blogs”
  • Build up a database of contacts in Excel from several of these lists
  • Make a shortlist of products that you’d be happy to give away (make sure these have some value and could be reviewed as such on someone’s blog. They may be insulted if you offer them products not seen as valuable!)
  • Contact the bloggers and ask if they’d like to receive your products for review.

As mentioned above, we’d recommend using this in conjunction with other techniques, to make sure we’re getting sufficient link diversity. Don’t worry about the capital costs of giving products away, as this should be made up for in increased sales on a short-term basis and increased site authority on a long-term basis.

Links from manufacturers, stockists etc

If you stock products from a number of manufacturers or if your products are stocked by other websites, there will be a great opportunity to get relevant links pointing to your site. Although your partners will most likely link to you anyway, it’s always worth checking to make sure they do. We’ve had several clients not being linked to from partners when they should have been originally, so it always pays to check. This is an example of what a stockist page could look like:

To find pages like this, simply google your stockist, supplier etc name with either “suppliers” or “stockists” at the end. “where to buy” and similar terms may also come in handy.

That’s the end of this post and of the multi-part Foundations of SEO series – we hope that you have found it useful! To make sure you don’t miss out on any future articles or downloads from Agency51, either like our Facebook page or follow @Agency51UK on Twitter!

Ben Henderson

Ben Henderson

Ben Henderson is a SEO specialist at Agency51, and enjoys working on and writing about all aspects of technical SEO for a wide variety of websites and industries.

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