Top Link Building Checklist to Streamline Your Backlink Efforts

Top Link Building Checklist to Streamline Your Backlink Efforts

Alexandra Tachalova
Alexandra Tachalova
Founder of Digital Olympus
A proper link building checklist is essential to streamline your backlink efforts and ensure you get the most out of your time and resources. We take you through the step-by-step process of creating a helpful and effective checklist.

Building backlinks is not a piece of cake. It requires you to juggle dozens of tasks at once. From finding link building opportunities to evaluating websites to outreaching webmasters to crafting content. And each of these steps includes at least five subtasks.

Without a proper link-building checklist, there’s no way to keep track of everything unless you want to diminish your link building efforts.

To prevent this, we’ve pulled together our 6-year knowledge of getting backlinks and created a link building cheat sheet.

Let’s streamline your backlink efforts right away!

Table of Contents

  • Link Building Basics Every SEO Pro Must Know
  • Our Free Downloadable Link Building Checklist
  • Main Link Building Activities

Link Building Basics Every SEO Pro Must Know

Before we break down our checklist, let’s dig down to the basics and review essential link building terms. We want this content to be as helpful for beginners as SEO pros. If you already know all the definitions listed, feel free to jump to the next chapter.

  • Link equity (AKA link juice): Both terms stand for the link value that backlinks pass to the site they link to. If you build links from quality sites, you will see your domain authority grow thanks to the link equity it gets. You can think of link equity as a search ranking factor (it actually is) because your site’s rankings depend on the number of high-quality links it gets from relevant sites (among other factors). The link juice might be significantly increased if a page has a solid number of quality links or/and is interlinked properly with the rest of the other pages on a site.
  • Do-follow and no-follow links: No-follow links don’t pass any link equity (or reportedly, do so on rare occasions) to the destination page. By applying the HTML attribute rel="nofollow" to a backlink, you tell Google’s search engine not to share its link juice. In contrast, do-follow links transfer authority (link equity) to the destination page. However, the rel="dofollow" attribute doesn’t exist. All backlinks are passing link juice by default unless otherwise specified.
  • Backlink anchor text is the text a link is connected to. The visible part, often blue and underlined, you click on to get to another page. Anchor text helps Googlebot determine the most relevant keywords the destination page should rank for.
  • Link schemes: There are many different techniques used to manipulate backlinks to boost a website’s ranking that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Exchanging money for links, creating PBNs, and excessive link exchange are among them.

Now that you’re armed with the necessary SEO vocabulary and are close to calling yourself an SEO Guru, let’s jump straight to the link building checklist.

Our Free Downloadable Link Building Checklist

This checklist is a byproduct of our daily link building process at Digital Olympus when working on customers' projects. No matter if you’re starting from scratch or streamlining your current link building strategy, this will help.

We boiled all intermediate steps down to create three main sections so you can easily apply each to your company.

Let’s see what’s inside.

Link Building Cheklist

Download our free link building checklist

  • The link building opportunities and prospects section contains the main strategies for getting backlinks. You can start off with the easiest ones — claiming unlinked brand mentions and finding testimonial opportunities and quality directories.
  • The website evaluation section will help you assess the quality of the websites from which you’re going to acquire backlinks. Here, we recommend you conduct a step-by-step backlink analysis since every mentioned aspect contributes to website quality. The more website parameters reach high scores, the stronger the backlink and the more link equity it passes.
  • The best practices section covers three crucial tactics to get high-quality links.

The right column of the checklist indicates each task’s completion status so you can track the efficiency of the link building process.

To start off using the checklist, simply make a copy of it. You can use multiple checklists for maintaining different link building campaigns at once.

Download our free link building checklist

With that, let’s jump to a detailed breakdown of each activity.

Main Link Building Activities

In this chapter, we will detail every step of the link building checklist with examples so you can easily replicate the entire process.

Let’s get started.

Finding Link Building Prospects / Opportunities

Link building prospecting involves different link building techniques to gain high-quality backlinks. We’ve put together the six most effective strategies that don’t violate search engine policies.

Claim unlinked brand mentions

Unlinked brand mentions are web pages that mention your brand (company name) but don’t link back to the brand’s website. When this happens, find webmasters' contacts and ask them to link to your homepage (or any other relevant page).

There are two methods for finding unlinked brand mentions.

The first one is to use the following search operator: intext:{brand name} -{website.com} -twitter.com -facebook.com -pinterest.com -youtube.com -linkedin.com -instagram.com -quora.com

This search operator tells search engines to find all pages (websites) that include your unlinked company name, excluding social media.

Finding unlinked brand mentions via search operator in Google

Finding unlinked brand mentions via search operator in Google

The second way is to utilize brand monitoring services like Mention or Brand 24. These tools crawl the internet 24/7, looking for your pre-defined keyword list and generating reports of websites containing those keywords.

Unlinked brand mentions of AhrefsUnlinked brand mentions of Ahrefs

Find broken links

Broken link building is one of the most popular link building tactics. The process is quite simple. First, link builders are looking for relevant broken links on websites in their niche. Then, they create similar, quality content to that broken resource. For instance, if the broken resource was an article about bathroom decorating tips, you can write something like, «10 Tips for Decorating Your Bathroom,» given that the resource fits your brand.

Lastly, link builders reach out to the websites' owners and offer them to swap out the broken link to your piece of content. If it’s relevant and appealing to readers, webmasters will gladly make this change.

«When I link build, I like to do it from broken pages, mainly because it actually helps the webmaster who may not have otherwise known the link was broken.

However, time permitting, I suggest taking the broken link building strategy a step further and creating an updated version of the page. This keeps the content fresh for them (Ed., for webmasters), improves their odds of ranking higher, and therefore improves the value of the link long term." — Tommy Walker, Founder of The Content Studio

The easiest way by far to find broken links is to use Ahrefs' or Semrush’s Best by links report and apply a «404 not found» filter. Like this, you can analyze competing and niche websites and unlock hundreds of link building opportunities.

Check this screenshot out. We’ve got a whopping 432 unique domains that refer to three broken pages. 432 great opportunities for backlink building!

432 domains refer to broken pages

432 domains refer to broken pages. Leverage these opportunities and gain hundreds of good links!

Find niche-relevant and quality directories

Directories link building is another effective way to build links if done right. Many directories are low-quality and spammy. Placing links on such sites may damage your domain authority.

When choosing directories, consider the following qualities:

  • It has decent traffic
  • Your competitors or fellows get leads from a directory (it usually works for local businesses)
  • It’s relevant to your business
  • It has a high DA (domain authority)

Find niche-relevant resource pages

The goal of resource page link building is to find relevant hand-curated lists of websites and ask their owners to link back to your content.

Find niche-relevant resource pages

You can easily locate relevant resource pages by using search strings like «best SEO tools for keyword research,» «top places to visit in Portugal,» and «resources for learning Spanish.» Or automate resource pages search with PitchBox. You can enter all of these search queries in PitchBox and retrieve relevant links sorted by DR in one click.

How to find resource pages with PitchBox

How to find resource pages with PitchBox

Next, contact webmasters and ask them to place your link.

Find niche-relevant blogs

Although most SEOs hate guest posting outreach — no surprise, it takes heaps of time and persistence — it’s still a very effective link building tactic.

The idea of guest blogging lies in crafting awesome content for relevant external blogs in order to get a link back.

As easy as it might sound, it’s not. You must first cultivate relationships with editors and bloggers and get on their radar so you can show them how good your content is without being intrusive. And consequently, the next time you approach them for content marketing collabs, they’re likely to consider your pieces.

Find testimonial opportunities

This tactic comes down to leaving testimonials on the products a business is using.

For instance, an SEO toolkit includes Ahrefs, Semrush, Clearscope, SurferSEO, Pitchbox, etc. This means we can reach out to all of them and offer great customer testimonials in exchange for backlinks.

Here’s an example of Pitchbox’s testimonial for Digital Olympus, where we linked back to the company.

Michael Geneles - Recommendation

Website Evaluation

At this stage, we must vet all sites we’ve marked as link building opportunities. Is their DA high? Do they get decent monthly organic traffic? Anything suspicious and spammy? And more.

Let’s learn how to run a quick website check-up.

Check the website’s domain authority

Domain authority (or domain rating) are metrics designed by MOZ and Ahrefs that estimate domain quality and trustworthiness in terms of link building. The higher the DR, the more link juice a new link will pass.

You can start building links to domains with >20−30 DR, but with time, you need to set the bar high and start targeting backlinks from high-authority domains with >55−80 DR+.

Note, both metrics (DA & DR) can vary slightly because different tools use different algorithms to calculate them.

You can opt for a free website authority checker by Ahrefs and check every site one at a time or subscribe to the paid plan and conduct bulk analysis.

Ahrefs’s free website authority checker

Ahrefs' free website authority checker

«Looking at domain authority alone will not tell you about the quality of a site or page. These numbers can be artificially high and intentionally inflated. Website owners know that link builders are judged on domain authority and will pay more for higher scores, so they’ll build ineffective links to game this system.» — Jakub Rudnik, Head of Content at Scribe

Check the website’s organic traffic

The more organic traffic a website has, the more legit it is in «Google's eyes.» However, there is no benchmark for determining how much traffic a site needs to build links.

So what numbers should you look for? Well, as with everything in SEO, it depends.

You can start from one thousand monthly organic traffic if you build links from corporate blogs (e.g., new SaaS products on the market). As these companies grow, their DR also increases. Meaning you will get more link equity over time. Ahrefs Batch Analysis will help you to gauge organic traffic for up to 200 websites.

«I look at a full site and its blog subfolder to determine if it is worth looking for link targets. If there’s little organic traffic, I don’t progress any further. Even if the traffic is high, you should look at that traffic. Some sites have a few pages with an outsized portion of traffic and little traffic to other pages.
You want to ensure the pages where you’re building links have their own traffic, or at least keywords that it ranks for. This guarantees that the page is getting indexed regularly.» — Jakub Rudnik, Head of Content at Scribe

Don’t forget to check social signals (e.g., social shares, likes) and content quality on websites with relatively low traffic. If they produce top-notch pieces, have compelling UX, and create an overall positive perception, go for it.

Last but not least, check that organic traffic comes from the right countries. For instance, if you target the US traffic but start getting links from sites with the biggest portion of visitors from India, then you eventually end up with Indian traffic. See traffic share by country in the Ahrefs Overview 2.0 report.

How to analyze organic traffic share by countryHow to analyze organic traffic share by country

Check websites for spammy behavior

Getting links from spammy websites, especially when done at scale, is risky. Thus, link builders must ensure that websites from which they’re planning to get backlinks are not spammy.

Here are some signs of a spammy website:

  • High Domain Authority but low organic traffic. This might be a sign of link schemes or other SERP manipulations.
  • The negative trend of referring domains and organic traffic.
  • Ensure that the number of referring domains correlates with the domain rating. A site with a DR of 50−60 shouldn’t have more than 1−2K referring domains. For instance, Digital Olympus has 1.1K referring domains to the DR of 64.

DigitalOlympus backlink profileDigital Olympus backlink profile

  • Lots of external links to other websites. If the quantity of outbound links is significantly higher than inbound links, double-check this website. Pay attention if there are links to/from .gov .edu domains or other trusted sources or industry leaders.
  • Low-quality content.
  • Lots of outbound links with exact match anchor texts.
  • Poor layout design.

Avoid placing links on such sites, as Google might mark them as unreliable and suspicious.

Check the website’s Top referring pages

The top 20 referring pages have to be relevant to the site’s niche and not come from spammy sites. Use Ahrefs to check the top pages of any website. Open the Backlinks report and click on the column «UR» to filter out the most meaningful referring pages. Look through the report and pay attention to the titles of the referring pages and URL Rating (UR).

Thus, Digital Olympus’s top 20 referring pages come from relevant SEO blogs.

How to check the website’s top 20 referring pages with Ahrefs How to check the website’s top 20 referring pages with Ahrefs

Ensure the website is niche relevant

Getting links from trusted AND relevant websites is the top priority. Links from relevant domains will maximize your website’s search rankings (if other ranking factors are in place).

Reminder: The topical relevance of the linking website is one of the ranking factors.

«SEOs should always take what Google says with a healthy dose of skepticism, but in this case, SEO best practices are more important. Links are one of the oldest forms of trust and authority that Google uses as a part of its ranking algorithms. SEOs should always link with the user’s best interests in mind and be wary of placing too many links to content that is not hyper-relevant to their topic.

I personally have never tried to build links from articles with little to no relevance to my topic or niche. Even if there is a short-term gain to organic ranking and traffic, the long-term risk is too large." — Evan Sherbert, Senior SEO Specialist at G2.

However, you can be creative with the relevance and build links from Tier 2−3 sites not fearing unwanted outcomes like being penalized.

«„Relevancy“ is a relative term, and I think it’s important to contextualize that. At face value, a real estate agent writing on a landscaping website may not make sense, but when the angle is „how these landscaping tips can improve the value of your home.“ it makes a huge difference.
Relevancy always comes first, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your framing. You just have to make sure the framing makes sense.» — Tommy Walker, Founder of The Content Studio

Best practices

Once you finish link prospecting and website evaluation, it’s time to move on to the final stage.

Here, we will learn what link building best practices are and how to incorporate them into your strategy.

Ensure a diversified anchor text profile

A diversified anchor text profile is essential for effective link building.

In short, diversified refers to including different anchor text when building links. Some links may contain your brand name. Some links will have an exact or partial anchor text match with keywords you’re trying to rank for, etc.

However, you should avoid placing many links with an exact match of target keywords because it looks unnatural to search engine algorithms. Try to picture the situation when every website linking to you uses the same keyword over and over again.

There’s no such thing in the real world of digital marketing. Google gets this and pays close attention to your text anchor profile to promptly punish webmasters who manipulate search engine rankings.

Check how your competitors and other niche sites are doing and adapt numbers within your industry.

Ensure backlinks are dofollow

Nofollow links don’t pass any link equity. That’s why it’s better to build dofollow backlinks. Nofollow backlinks will naturally appear when someone writes about your product.

However, having only dofollow backlinks in your backlink profile also seems artificial to Google.

So you need to keep the right balance between do-follow/no-follow types of links. For example, 90%+ of do-follows and 10−15% of no-follows.

ProTip: When picking up websites for link building, look at the no-follow tag for existing links. Do they utilize it? If so, avoid this site because you won’t get any link equity but lose time for outreaching and writing content. Or discuss getting a do-follow link upfront.

Craft a personalized outreach email

Personalization is a key for link building outreach campaigns. You need to stand out from the crowd of generic outreach emails to get editors to answer you.

By personalization, we mean personalized paragraphs in the email body (not only the {FirstName} variable) and a relevant pitch with relevant topics to the target audience.

Otherwise, your outreach efforts will go directly to the junk folder.

Here are some options on how to personalize your email:

  • Mention that you’ve read a specific article on their blog AND want to expand on the idea that was briefly covered.
  • Do quick LinkedIn research on editors' activities. It might give you some topic ideas to cover. Refer to their posts while pitching.
  • Be bluntly transparent. Say that you’re looking for link-building opportunities and are ready to mention their site in return.
  • Be empathetic. Emphasize that you know what it takes to be an editor and read through a bunch of trashy emails. So you want to save their time and create top-notch 🔥content.

Implement these recommendations and level up your link building outreach!

Now Over to You

Great link building results come with a structured and organized approach. The link building checklist will help you become more efficient and streamline your link building process.

Looking for help with link building? Contact our Digital Olympus team, and let’s find the right solution for your business!

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