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How to build backlinks for your SaaS SEO?

We discuss how you can build backlinks for your SaaS with insights from SEO experts and SaaS founders.

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Note: SaaSwrites is a curated growth marketing hub and resource built to help SaaS founders grow their products. We sincerely thank all our experts for their constant value addition to this world.
Updated: 05/03/2022

Chris M.Walker says the more important a page is, the more internal links it should have pointing to it. You linking to a page more often signals to Google "I want my users to go here. β€œSo they are more likely to rank it higher.... At least if the rest of your SEO is on-point.
If you want the pages of your website to rank high in Google, you will almost certainly need links. Links from other websites tell Google that your content is notable and deserves to rank high. So (generally) the more links you have - the better. But how/where to get them?
Conceptually, there are just 4 ways to get links:
Add: Manually add links to websites.
Ask: Email website owners & ask for a link.
Buy: Exchange money for links.
Earn: Get links from people who visited your page.
(these come together into a totally un-memorable acronym β€” AABE)
This is when you manually add your link to some website without asking anyone's permission. Think of different business directories & social networking sites - anyone can sign up for those and add a link. But how valuable are such links?
Most of these links have little to no SEO value for your website. Yes, there's probably a handful of legit business directories in your niche where you DO need to get listed. But the vast majority of them are a complete waste of time.
You should totally go and register a bunch of relevant social profiles that might make sense to your website/business in the long term. But don't expect a SEO boost from such links. These links give you zero competitive advantage, because any competitor can easily get them too.
Krishna Shekhar emphasizes adding internal links to your website. The pages that doesn't have link to any other page within your site is considered as orphan page. Google would want the conversation keep going on internet. Make sure all pages are linked internally in your site, specially anchor text
If you own a website, you likely received one or two (hundred?) emails from "fascinating bloggers & content writers" asking you for a link in one way or another.
So when you reach out to someone and ask them for a link, make sure you have a good answer to the following question: "WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?" Offering a guest article is just one of the many tactics used by SEOs when they ask for links.
Here are a few more:
There's one BIG PROBLEM with this group of link building strategies though. People tend to OVER-ESTIMATE THE VALUE that they are offering to the other party.
The fact that you have pointed out a broken link in someone's article doesn't mean that they would swap it to yours.
I recently did a small experiment of "asking for links" to one of my blog articles.
  • 111 emails sent (with a 41% response rate)
  • 19 links acquired
  • 17% success rate
Key takeaways -
reviewed ~200 link prospects (collected by a contractor) and sent ~90 emails
The RESULTS:
πŸ”Ή ~200 prospects reviewed; πŸ”Ή ~90 emails sent; πŸ”Ή 13 links acquired (a few more might come later); πŸ”Ή 14 people wanted some sort of a "deal;" πŸ”Ή 3 people said "no."
15% success rate is not too shabby (from what I've heard from my SEO friends).
Learnings in the process-
β€œLink Building Outreach.”
Quite a few things actually. But before I share my "lessons" with you, please be advised that what is about to follow is mostly based on my GUT FEELING and perception, rather than any scientific evidence. No A/B tests were done in the process.
Lesson #1: Content quality is no panacea.
The article that I was pitching is one of my best pieces of content EVER. It regularly picks up legit links organically and the TL;DR version that I shared on Reddit got 70+ upvotes and a silver award. I thought this would be easy!
But as I started reaching out to people and telling them how much I worked on this piece of content and how unique, useful and notable it is and why their own readers would appreciate a heads up about such a cool resource. Folks didn't seem to care that much.
A few people DID say that it was awesome. But I didn't feel that all the hard work that went into that piece of content was of major help in persuading people to link to it. I might as well have got similar results with a post which was half as good.
Lesson #2: Ahrefs tool helped A LOT.
I got a strong impression that I was getting links because people already knew our brand and trusted that our content is awesome. And perhaps they wanted to do us a small favour. If I were a newbie blogger - I wouldn't have that.
Lesson #3: People wanted an "incentive."
Many folks asked me what I could offer them in return for linking to my article. According to Google I can't really offer them anything at all. But if I didn't have a brand helping me to get links, that would be my only way.
And I actually think that it is a rather healthy dynamic. You don't reach out to people asking for 20 minutes of their time, just because you're "great" and "deserve their attention," right? If you want someone to help you, you have to help them in return.
What about "making their content better" and "helping their readers" via mentioning your awesome article in their content? Your link will make almost exactly NO DIFFERENCE at all. Their article is already published. Which means they're happy with it as it is.
"But what if Google finds out about my link exchange?" According to a research study which we've carried out a while ago, reciprocal links are quite common. 73.6% of websites in our sample size of 140k DID have reciprocal links! So an occasional link exchange is fine.
It's when all you do is trade links with shitty sites - THEN you will likely get in trouble. Building genuine connections with people in your industry and supporting each other's work is perfectly fine. That's how things work in real life, no?
Lesson #4: Outreach template doesn't matter much
I know that many people obsess about using some magic words or psychological triggers that would make people link to them. There's no such thing. Ask 10 outreach "experts" to write an email and you'll get 10 different emails. I think that most prospects are in one of 3 "states" even before you reach out to them:
1 - open to review your pitch; 2 - want a "deal;" 3 - don't care.
And the MAIN reason why people would be in "state 1" is if they've heard about you before. Most are in state 2 or 3. There CAN be cases where your incredibly smart and timely outreach might melt some hearts and make people link to you, when normally they wouldn't care.
But if we're talking about sending hundreds of outreach emails - that kind of personalization isn't scalable.
Lesson #5: Follow-ups work
A fair share of email replies that I got were from following up. I only used one short non-intrusive follow-up though. Did anyone if subsequent follow-ups make any difference?
Lesson #6: Mind the AGE of your link prospects
How likely are you to edit an article that is 5 years old? How about editing an article that you published last week? This is how you look like asking to edit an old article:
And besides, Do you think it would look natural to Google if a few dozen websites that haven't updated their articles for years suddenly decided to add a link to the same page there?
All at the same time?......they use it as some form of a "spam signal OR In @ahrefs Site Explorer you can easily see the latest links to the pages of your competitors.
And it may vary how likely is someone to link to two similar resources side-by-side. But I can see two of my friends on that screenshot
Lesson #7: Mind the QUALITY of your link prospects
While doing this link outreach I caught myself ruminating on the following "outreach principle:" "If you can't think of anything on a given website that would deserve a link, why bother about asking for a link FROM it?"You might disagree with me and go after every link you can get...
But if a website looks sketchy - there's a good chance that you're looking at someone's PBN and a link from it might lead into trouble, plus I simply felt bad asking for a link from content that I don't like.
Google is STRONGLY AGAINST paying for links. If you get caught - they penalise your website. But let's be real. Many SEOs DO pay for links and manage to get away with it. So whether or not you should pay for links depends on your risk tolerance and moral code.
"Moral code" , because in many cases people pay for links when they struggle to acquire them in white hat ways. In other words - people often pay for links when their content doesn't deserve those links in the first place.
When you Google something which is very important for you, do you want to see pages that other people thought were valuable (and therefore linked to them)? Or do you want to see unworthy pages that "hacked" their way to the top? All in all, paying for links is a very controversial topic in SEO.
Many SEOs would bring up some sound arguments as to why paying for links is perfectly ethical and safe. But at Ahrefs it is believed that links should be EARNED, not bought.
That's when people link to you, without you having to personally ask them to do so.
Earning links is easy:
  1. Create amazing content/product/service
  1. Promote it to relevant audiences
  1. Sit back and watch the links pile up
You just need a few simple things to be earning links:
  • a strong brand
  • good reputation in your industry
  • large audience/following
  • original ideas/research/data
  • experienced content marketing team
  • vast resources to promote your content
Everyone has that, right?
No!
Earning links is obviously NOT easy. But that's the whole point, right? Take any topic, and there would be thousands (sometimes millions) of pages about it.
But only 10 of them will make it to the front page of Google and get that search traffic.
Want to be among those 10?
  • build your brand
  • grow your reputation
  • grow your following
  • conceive original ideas
  • learn content marketing
  • invest in content promotion
"Obstacle is the way" as @RyanHoliday would put it :)
She pitched a popular website that had at least a DA of 80 to write a guest post for them. Once the pitch was accepted, she used to reach out to other websites that were ranking for a related term and ask if they wanted a backlink to her post. In exchange, they would link back to her site.
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Read:
Of course, they said yes. The link juice and relevance from a site with DA 70-80 was too good to pass up. Because the site was so popular, that post would be syndicated by other websites that survived by curating content from the big guns. One guest post would turn into 10-20 backlinks.
For example, she went through a stage where she was obsessed with local SEO, even considered niching down here for a while but ultimately decided it wasn't for her. Anyhow, she wrote a local SEO guide for fun, wrote three guest posts on Search Engine Watch, Hackernoon and another site and all three post brought in a total of 58 inbound links.
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Read:
This is a great strategy to try if you're just starting out and need to build high-quality links on zero budget
  • Target the big guns
  • Write great content
  • Ask other sites ranking for that keyword if they want to be featured on the post
Ask them to link back to you from relevant content on their site. It should relate to the keyword you want to rank for but not compete with the post you're writing the guest post on.
Watch the inbound links and referral traffic pour in.
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