Starting to build links for a new site is a lot like climbing a mountain.
You’re starting from ground zero with a lot of enthusiasm, but when you realize you have to climb for days to get anywhere, that enthusiasm often turns to the feeling of being overwhelmed.
But when it comes to your site, the weather conditions, metaphorically speaking, are terrible as well.
No one can see you from above, so they can’t help you out—you are on your own.
That already rules out certain link building (climbing) strategies.
This fact is nothing new.
But the advice for new site owners is outdated and just plain bad in some cases.
I recently saw multiple guides that advised building (and paying for) directory links and social media bookmarks.
That kind of stuff was useful over five years ago, but today, it is a waste of your time and money—resources that could be spent building links that will help you get immediate traffic and long-term search rankings.
Seeing those guides was the inspiration for this post because no one beginning a site should start off on the wrong foot.
I’m going to show you four ways to build links specifically tailored towards new sites.
These are the links that actually matter. If you get a few dozen of them, you will see an immediate impact on your traffic levels.
1. Invest in a gift for the community
Almost every new business has the same problem: no one knows you. Even if you have a lot to offer, again, no one knows you.
One of the main objectives of the link building tactics we’ll look at in this post is to get attention.
And there are many ways to get the attention of people you don’t know.
The best way, in most cases, is to offer something of value—as big of a value as you can provide.
Here are a few options.
Option #1 – create a photo gallery: Any good blogger knows the importance of having great images in posts.
While some bloggers hire a designer for the most important pictures, it’s inconvenient and not always affordable for less important pictures.
However, most bloggers would gladly exchange a link to a site for a free picture.
That’s why I propose hiring a designer (or taking pictures yourself) and creating a free image gallery. Then, send out the link to the gallery to medium-top bloggers in your niche, explaining that they are free to use them in exchange for a link back.
For example, in the fitness niche, you could take pictures like these:
Spending a few hundred dollars upfront here will not only open doors to other bloggers but get you several dozen really good links.
A final important note is that you should create images around common points in your niche.
For example, if you were in the content marketing niche, you could create custom images for things that are often mentioned such as:
- SEO tools
- SEO rankings
- Reader personas
- Inbound marketing
- The different marketing channels
And so on…
Option #2 – create a free tool: If you’re interested in getting a ton of traffic yourself, on top of links, you can create something for your community of users rather than just bloggers. And that something is a tool.
Tools can be a great way to grow your site and earn backlinks at the same time.
For example, the keyword research tool Keywordtool.io has been linked to by over 3,880 unique domains. Honestly, that’s a relatively simple tool to build or get built.
After a bit of time, you can get links (good ones) that work out to under $1 per link, which is amazing. Add all the traffic that you can also get on top of that, and you can see why tools can be a great thing to make.
The big drawback is that it will take some time to build the tool in the first place, especially if you can’t code it yourself.
Additionally, you’re going to have to promote the tool. Write posts about it in niche forums, subreddits, and on social media.
Option #3 – do original data analysis (or research): One option that I really love, yet almost no one does, is to do original analysis or research.
Look at any good data-driven post—for example, my post about how to win on Facebook.
What you’ll see is that most posts link to someone else’s research.
It takes a lot of time and effort to do original research, which is why it’s much easier to link to someone else’s research than to do your own.
You can take advantage of this by providing the research that bloggers in your niche link to.
In that above post, the research was done by Buzzsumo, and I simply analyzed the data that they sent me. Of course, I’m going to give them a few links for that, and it also opens the door for a great relationship.
Find an interesting question always asked in your niche, dig in, and do the research. When you’re done, email the results to the top bloggers in your niche, and give them first dibs.
2. Study competitors, and learn from them
The toughest thing you can do is reinvent the wheel.
Your competitors have likely spent years building up their reputations and earning backlinks to their sites.
Many of these backlinks are from sites that you could also get a backlink from.
That’s why competitor analysis is a great place to start for any new site.
Here’s a simple 3-step process to follow.
Step #1 – Find your close competitors: The closer a competitor is to you, the more likely that their backlink sources would be appropriate for you.
If you know your niche well, you can likely do this off the top of your head. Otherwise, search for “best (specific niche) blogs.”
It’s best to make a big list somewhere for later.
Next, find the “inbound links” or equivalent option to see a list of all their links:
If you want to see them all, you’ll need a premium account. Both sites offer a trial period that you can take advantage of.
The links should be sorted by default in order of strength. Obviously, you want to go only after the best links (usually the top 20-30% of links).
From there, you’ll have to visit each page and find the link:
Step #3 – Can you replicate the link? Here is where your marketing skills come into play.
Some links, like links from private blog networks, can’t be replicated.
However, links from guest posts, forums, social networks, blog comments, etc. can be replicated. You can often get very similar links to those of your competitors’.
From there, you need to go after that link.
For example, if you see that your competitor wrote a guest post on a site, I strongly suggest you read some of my posts on guest-posting effectively and then apply that information to try to secure a post of your own.
Unfortunately, I can’t walk you through this step in great detail because it differs for every type of link. However, you will get better at it as you gain experience.
As a final note, you should stay on top of your competitors. Check which links they are getting on a regular basis, say once a week or once a month. It’s usually easier to replicate links that are more recent (rather than years old).
3. Forum links can have value
Let me start off by being very clear: most forum links are garbage.
Signature links and profile links rarely have any real value.
If you have a link on a page that no one visits or links to, your link isn’t going to count for much.
But what about the most popular threads on a big forum?
These threads rank well in Google. They have a lot of high-quality, relevant content, and people even link to them on other sites.
Links, especially near the top of the page (like in the opening post), can carry a good amount of weight.
For example, Brian Dean used to post on the Warrior Forum when Backlinko was newer.
He would include a link to his content on the first line and then paste the rest of his post. Here’s an example:
That thread got over 14,000 views and almost 100 replies. A decent portion of those viewers likely visited his website.
Also, because it was so popular on the forum, it has a lot of internal links pointing to it on high authority pages on the forum.
It also has 12 external domains pointing to it to give it even more authority.
Every forum has its own rules for posting content, but as long as you’re not just dropping a link and saying “go visit my site,” you should be okay.
However, you need to genuinely put the time and effort into understanding what the users of your forum want and then give it to them. You need your thread to get popular if you want a good link.
No, these links aren’t the absolute best and most powerful (from an SEO perspective) that you can get. But for a new site, a few relatively strong links from forums can help build a strong foundation.
4. If you want to burst onto the scene, guest-posting is a must
Most link building strategies for new sites are fairly slow.
They take consistent effort and deliver consistent results.
But you rarely get thousands of readers and hundreds of links within months unless you do them exceptionally well.
I consider guest-posting an exception to the rule. Even though you have to do it really well to get results, most bloggers have the ability to succeed with it.
And guest-blogging works for you even if you’re brand new. If you have a good pitch, it doesn’t matter what your name is.
When I think of guest-blogging to build up a new site, I think of Danny Iny, who is often referred to as the “Freddy Krueger of guest-posting.”
He got this nickname because he seemed to be everywhere when Firepole Marketing (now Mirasee) first launched.
His main strategy for getting traffic and links was guest-posting. He wrote dozens of guest posts and quickly took Firepole Marketing to the top tier of marketing blogs.
I won’t go into guest-posting in detail here because I’ve done it multiple times before:
The one adaptation that you will have to make, since you’re brand new, is not to start at the top.
Don’t start by pitching to a site like Copyblogger or Forbes. Instead, find a few smaller sites that are more receptive to pitches.
Then, you need to wow them with your post and promote that post as well.
Once you can prove that your writing is great, then you can start pitching to bigger sites, citing your other successes as proof that you’re a serious blogger.
Here’s the reality: You’re in a tough spot.
Building links for a new site is not easy, but if you’re willing to put in consistent effort, it can be done.
I’ve shown you four of the most effective ways I know to build links for a new site. I encourage you to focus on just one or two of them until you’ve exhausted their potential.
If you’ve been in this situation before and have any creative link building ideas to share with others, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.