The Ultimate Link Building Checklist For 2024

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the link building checklistThis link building checklist covers every step in the link building process from start to finish.

If you follow this checklist, you’ll build amazing backlinks every single time without fail!


I have broken down the entire link building process into 5 easy to follow checklist based sections:

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below or download the checklist here!

Preparing Your Link Building Campaign

Before you begin building links, you need to prepare properly.


Starting a link building campaign without any preparation is like boarding a plane without knowing where you want to go. You need to identify your goals and create a strategy to help you get there.

Use the first part of this link building checklist (download) to set yourself up for success.

1. Analyse Your Own Backlink Profile

There are 3 reasons you need to analyse your backlink profile first:

  1. See what links you currently have
  2. Check where your links are coming from
  3. Determine which pages you need to build links to
  4. Figure out how many backlinks you need to build

Expect a solid backlink analysis to take about 30-45 minutes.

The two best backlink checker tools are Ahrefs and the Backlink Blacklist.

backlink blacklist

They will comprehensively analyse your entire backlink profile and ensure you don’t have any bad backlinks pointing at your site.

Follow this backlink audit tutorial for an in-depth guide to properly run a full backlink analysis.

Don’t forget to check out our complete Ahrefs review to see everything this powerful tool can do for you.

It will be one of your favourite SEO tools by the end of this link building checklist!

2. Set Up Goals For Your Link-Building Campaign

The next step is to choose your link building campaign goals.

These goals should be concise and measurable so you can determine whether your link building campaigns are effective.

But don’t just think about goals in terms of SEO.

The bottom line is that your link building goals should help move your business forward. For our clients, we usually have three essential goals for each campaign:

  • Move target pages to the first page of Google
  • Increase organic traffic to the target pages
  • Grow revenue from organic traffic

That makes sense, right?

lead signup results

If we accomplish each of these goals, our clients will get a ton of targeted traffic to the right pages and a significant increase in sales and conversions.

That’s how you can determine whether you got an ROI on your link building campaign or not.

3. Decide Which Pages To Build Links To

You don’t want to build links to every page on your site.

Here’s exactly how I determine which pages to build links to:

    • Identify the keywords that you are currently ranking for in the top 3 pages on Google
    • Choose the keywords that are most commercially relevant to you
    • Select the top 5 pages that you will build links to

You can use Ahrefs or Google Search Console to do both of those things.

check ranking positions on google search console

Watch the video below for more information on the process:

4. Calculate The “Link Gap” For Each Target Keyword

The “link gap” is the minimum number of links you need to compete for the top 3 ranking positions.

Link building is hard work.

That means you don’t want to waste time building too many (or too few) links to a single page. You want to build the right number of links.

How do you calculate the link gap?

I have a super simple process that helps us determine precisely how many links we need to build to each page.

Here’s how it works:

    • Use Ahrefs or Semrush to look at your target keyword
    • Look at the backlink profiles of the top 3 search results
    • Identify the types of links that are powering those rankings
    • Determine how many links you need to build to compete

Check out this video below for a detailed tutorial of this exact process:

When you know how many links you need to rank, you can figure out how much it will cost to attack any keyword you want.

Now calculate the number of links you need to build for each of your target keywords and pages. This gives you a good target to start building links!

5. Build A Sheet That Will Help You Keep Track

The last step for setting up link building campaigns is creating a sheet to track each link you build.

Don’t go over the top here!

Create a simple sheet that tracks-

simple link building tracker

That’s it!

A simple spreadsheet that will provide you with all the information you need to track your link building results.


If you want to build a lot of links at scale you might find a tool like PitchBox to be helpful:

podcast jacking

Nearly every major guest posting service and SEO agency use PitchBox to manage their link building campaigns as it helps to automate a lot of the tasks in this checklist.

Take a look at how we use it in our podcast jacking strategy for example.

Read my full Pitchbox review to learn more about the tool.

Finding Backlink Opportunities With Proven Link Building Strategies

Now your link building campaign is set up for success.

The next part of the checklist (download) is to find the right link building opportunities. This is one of the most complex parts of link building.

But the key is using the right link building strategies.

6. Uncover Your Competitors Best Backlinks

Competitor backlink analysis is my favorite link building strategy.


Because I have been using it for over 10+ years and it still is the most effective link building method.

Here’s how it works:

First, you must Google your target keyword and copy the top 5 ranking sites.

google search example

Now download my backlink analysis spreadsheet.

The next part is simple but important:

    • Use Ahrefs or Semrush to find all of your competitor’s backlink data
    • Load that data into the spreadsheet
    • Click on the “Plan of Attack” tab

backlink theft sheet

This will filter out your competitors’ bad and spammy links, leaving you with ONLY the high-quality backlinks you want to replicate.

Now all you have to do is reach out to each site and start securing the links.

Check out my complete backlink analysis tutorial for a more in-depth step-by-step on this incredible link building strategy.

7. Find Broken Links That Need Updating

Want to help people while securing quality links for your site that you can scale easily?

Broken link building is for you.

The key is using the right process so that you can scale the campaign as you find success.

My process involves just 4 steps:

    • Step #1 – Search for broken links
    • Step #2 – Offer your content as a replacement
    • Step #3 – Your website link is placed on their site
    • Step #4 – Rinse and repeat the process

broken link building

Not so hard, right?

To find broken links you have 2 options:

I prefer to use Ahrefs because it saves a ton of time and ultimately pays for itself with the extra links you can build.

Ahrefs has designed a specific tool that makes it super easy to find broken links around the web.

ahrefs broken link building tool

Check My Links is also good, but you will have to do much more manual work to succeed.

check my links chrome extension

Once you have found a broken link on a relevant web page, the next step is to see what used to be on that link. For this use Wayback Machine (free).

wayback machine

It lets you see what the broken link used to look like before.

You now need to reach out to the website with the broken link and let them know. You can then suggest your own piece of content as a replacement for that link.

Make sure you check out my scalable guide to broken link building to take full advantage of this tactic.

8. Search For Unlinked Mentions Of Your Brand

This might be the easiest way to build links.

Here’s why:

Unlinked mentions are when another website mentions your brand in a blog or article but doesn’t link to your site.

You simply:

    • Find the unlinked mention
    • Email them asking if they will place a link

Most website owners are happy to do this because they have already mentioned your brand name.

In my experience, unlinked mentions usually occur because the author of the article just forgot to add a link.

This is how I find unlinked brand mentions online.

Head over to Google and search:

    • Intext:”brand name” -site:[your site]
    • Intext: “Your Brand Name” +
    • +

unlinked mention google search

This brings up results that could include unlinked mentions of your brand name.

example of intext brand mention

How easy is that?

This strategy won’t cost you any money, but it does take time and patience to execute correctly. You might have to sift through a few pages on Google before you find unlinked mentions.

The good news is that you can automate this process for future unlinked brand mentions.

Set up Google Alerts using the string above:

google alerts setup

Or if you want to be super sure, you can setup a more global Google alert like:

intext:”searchlogistics” OR intext:”search logistics”

advanced google alert setup

This way, whenever someone mentions your brand name online you get an email delivered straight to your inbox to check if the mention was linked.

That’s about as easy as high-quality link building gets!

9. Find Niche-Relevant Websites For Guest Posting

This might be the most well-known link building strategy today.

And it’s still effective today if you use the right approach.

Guest posting is when you create content for another website and link back to your site within the content.

The site gets a great piece of content for free and you get a link.

Win-win, right?

You need to be good at identifying high domain authority sites that have real organic traffic. Use a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to find qualified sites to reach out to in your niche.

ahrefs site explorer dashboard

Guest blogging isn’t what it used to be way back in 2012 though.

Site owners are more aware of how valuable backlinks are. The key to being successful with strategic guest blogging is focusing on building relationships.

Use this strategic guest blogging tutorial to execute it for yourself.

10. Find High Value Pages In Your Niche

Securing links from high value pages such as resource pages and some directories is a classic link building technique that still works today.

What makes these links so valuable is that they are:

    • Contextual
    • Relevant
    • From powerful domains

First let me show you how we build links from resource pages.

A resource pages is where bloggers, businesses and influencers list a bunch of resources (tools, sites, software etc.) that they recommend to their audience.

Getting yourself featured on a resource page is a great way to build high domain authority backlinks and drive more traffic.

Head over to Google and type in:

    • Inurl: [your niche] + resources

finding resource pages with google

This will bring up a bunch of relevant resource pages specifically related to your niche. Now you have some great sites to reach out to and possibly get listed on.

Now just follow my resource pages link building tutorial to get those links!

But what about directories? Online directories are websites that contain a categorised list of links to other websites.

They are essentially link aggregators that allow users to find what they are looking for quickly and easily. If you can get your site listed in a RELEVANT high domain authority directory – this will be a great backlink to have.

best of the web directory

Head over to Google and type in:

    • Inurl:[your niche] directory

travel directory search

This will bring up potential directories that you might want to submit your website to if its relevant and spam free:

directory example

Check out this directory link building guide to see 32 directories you can submit your site to right now!

Evaluating The Websites (Before Pitching)

Quality control is the single most important part of link building.


Let me be clear – all link building is against Google’s guidelines.

google guidelines

If you build low quality links, you risk receiving a Google penalty. And trust me when I say Google penalty recovery is not easy!

That’s why you must ensure that you ONLY build high-quality links. Pay close attention to each point in this section of the link building checklist (download).

Evaluate every website using these criteria before you bother doing any outreach.

11. Make Sure The Site Is Relevant

You only want to build links on sites relevant to your niche or industry.

What does that mean?

Let’s say you have a website that sells hammocks.

If you get a link from a blog about bathroom renovations, the two sites aren’t really related to each other. The link you build will have less of an impact on your website rankings or worse case…

Google might regard the link as spammy and you end up hurting your search engine rankings.

Google penalty

Make sure that every site you want to build links on has content on it that is relevant to your own website’s specific niche or wider industry.

12. Check The Sites Authority Score

You only want to build links from websites that have high authority.

A link from a high authority website like The Guardian will be much more valuable than a link from a new blog.

high authority links vs low authority links

High authority sites will also increase domain authority on your own site and produce higher rankings overall.

It’s worth pointing out that different tools use different authority metrics/scores:

    • Moz – Domain Authority
    • Ahrefs – Domain Rating
    • Semrush – Authority Score
    • Majestic – Trust Flow & Citation Flow

Internally at SearchLogistics and LinksThatRank we rely on the Domain Rating score from Ahrefs:

ahrefs domain rating score

A lot of people also rely on domain authority (DA) from Moz but we prefer to rely on Ahrefs much bigger database of links to calculate overall authority.

moz domain authority checker

But you can use Moz’s free domain analysis tool to check any website’s DA quickly.

However, I’ll say it again – we prefer to use Ahref’s domain rating (DR) metric because from previous experience, it has produced a more accurate evaluation for me.

You can check any website’s domain rating using the Ahrefs free website authority checker tool.

13. Check The Backlink Blacklist

Next you need to check that the website is not listed on the Backlink Blacklist.

backlink blacklist

What is the Backlink Blacklist?

It is a free tool from LinksThatRank with a database of over 60,000+ domains that have been blacklisted for link building.

Domains in the Blacklist are there because a link from any of these sites could land you in trouble with Google.

Paste all of your target domains into the Blacklist and it will immediately tell you if it has been blacklisted or not.

LinksThatRank also provides proof as to why any domain has been blacklisted in the first place.

backlink blacklist results

Cool, right?

This is a completely free tool you should take advantage of.

14. Make Sure The Site Has Organic Search Traffic

You only want links from sites that Google already trusts.

A great way to know if Google trusts a website is if the site gets verifiable organic traffic from search engines each month.

I only build links on sites with more than 500 organic visitors per month.

You can use Ahrefs:

ahrefs organic search traffic report

or Semrush to get an estimate of every website’s organic traffic.

semrush organic traffic estimator

It’s an easy step to ensure the quality of your link building!

15. Check The Site Is Not A Link Farm

Some websites are created just to publish backlinks on.

These are called link farms and are the absolute last place you want to build a link from. If the website has tons of links and content but not much traffic, it’s a potential link farm.

what are link farms?

Just click through the site and do a quick check before proceeding. You can usually identify link farm type sites pretty easily with the naked eye.

Backlinks from link farms are like a death sentence for SEO!

So make sure you avoid them! Especially if the site features a bunch of unrelated categories in its main navigation.

16. Read The Content To Make Sure It Matches Your Quality Standards

The last big link building quality control step before outreach is to check the quality standards of the website.

You want to avoid a link from a site with a ton of spammy content!

google policies for google web search

Check that the content on the site is-

    • Relevant to your audience
    • Well-written
    • Doesn’t contain spam

It doesn’t take long to do, but a quick spot check of existing content can make a huge difference in the quality of the backlinks you build.

Creating Content For Link Building

If you have followed the ultimate link building checklist (download) properly, you should have-

    • Determined what pages you want to build links to
    • Found a list of link building opportunities
    • Vetted each of the sites for quality control
    • Reached out using your chosen link building method

Most link building strategies involve creating content for the website you are getting a backlink from.

Ensuring that you create high-quality content for the website will make them happy and ultimately boost the quality of your link.

good website content vs bad website content

This section of the link building checklist will ensure you only create quality content that both people and Google love!

17. Choose The Topic According To The Website

First up is choosing the topic to write about.

Your topic should be relevant and interesting to the website’s audience.

You want to write about something that:

    • You’re an expert on
    • People will actually want to read

But that’s not all…

The topic should always be relevant to the page on your site that you are building the link to. Marry these things together and you have a great topic!

Bonus Tip: Try to get your target keyword in the title and/or the permalink for an extra boost!

18. Follow The Target Sites Content Guidelines

Most websites have content guidelines.

Usually the website manager will give you the guidelines before you start creating the content.

content writing guidelines example

If they don’t, just ask them.

You MUST follow guidelines as strictly as possible.

You don’t want your content rejected at the last minute because you didn’t pay close enough attention to the guidelines initially.

19. Use Relevant Anchor Text For Your Link

Anchor text can significantly impact how effective the link is for your SEO.

Anchor text is the clickable words in a hyperlink. It helps people know:

    • What they are about to click on
    • What they should expect to see when they click

Google also uses anchor text to better understand what the linked page is about. That’s why it can have such a significant impact on backlink quality.

For link building, you need to ensure that the anchor text has keywords related to your linked page and the keyword you want to rank for.

But it MUST also sound natural within the text.

So what anchor text should you use? Well I suggest you check out this video below to learn how I choose anchor text for my links:

Unfortunately there is no single magic formula for anchor text selection, every target keyword is different. Sometimes you need to tread carefully with exact match anchors and sometimes you need to be aggressive.

So make sure you follow the video to figure out exactly which anchor text you should use.

20. Write Unique, High-Value Content

What is good content?

Short answer – Unique and high value.

Here’s what I mean by both:

Google loves unique content. If you just regurgitate what’s already been written before – don’t expect to have good results. Include your own expertise and personal experience in the content.

This will bring it to life and make the content completely original for the site you are publishing it on.

The content should be in-depth and cover the topic thoroughly.

Ultimately – the reader shouldn’t need to go anywhere else to learn more about the topic after reading your content.

Bonus tip: Add relevant images or embed videos to illustrate your content. Extra points if they’re your own branded-media!

You can read through my website content tutorial to learn more about creating killer content people want to read.

21. Place At Least One Internal Link To The Target Site

Always add at least 1 internal link to another page on the target site within your content. Google loves internal links because:

    • It helps them crawl the web easier
    • It provides value to site users by linking other content that they might like

Internal Linking

Ensure you include internal links within your content to other relevant pages on the target site.

This makes the content look more natural as it has internal links to other relevant content on the target site along with an external link to your own site.

22. Place At Least One Other External Link

Obviously you should link to your own site, but you should also add external links to other websites as well.


Because a proper editorial piece of content always references it’s sources and it’s very rare to see an article only feature a single external link.

difference between internal and external links

But there is another very important reason for adding other external links to your guest posts…

It makes the backlink you place to your site blend in and seem more natural. No one (including Google) will detect that the content was written just to place a backlink to your site.

If you only link to yourself, overtime you will create a detectable footprint!

23. Make Sure The Content Is At Least 1,000 Words

Most SEOs and bloggers agree that 1,000 words are the minimum that you should write for content.

Content race

The truth is Google loves long-form content because it provides more value to readers. The website you are writing the content for will also like that you spent time producing a longer piece of content.

The minimum content length should be 1,000 words, but if you can write more to provide better value – go for it!

24. Ensure Your Content Looks Good

Don’t underestimate the importance of good looking content!

Most people don’t pay enough attention to it.

Content that looks good and is easy to consume will rank better. Link building statistics also show that good looking content will mean people will spend longer on the page.

longer content gets more links

Here are some tips to follow:

    • Structure your content with a title and headings
    • Use short sentences and paragraphs
    • Add bullet points where relevant
    • Include multimedia (images, videos, graphics)
    • Don’t forget internal links to other pages on the target site and external links

Take a look at my list of SEO copywriting hacks if you need any more help with this:

SEO copywriting infographic

Your goal in editing each piece of content is to ensure the reader can find the information they want as quickly as possible.

Passing The “Quality Control” Process

The last section of the link building checklist (download PDF) is the quickest, easiest and possibly – the most important.

After your content has been placed by the target website, do these last four simple (but essential) checks to make sure you’re link is everything that it should be:

25. Make Sure Your Link Is DoFollow

This almost goes without saying.

Everyone knows that only “dofollow” links really count in SEO. Once your link is on the website, double-check to make sure it’s dofollow.

You can use a browser extension to help with this but I think it’s better to learn how to do it the old fashioned way.

In Google Chrome, right click on the link and then click “Inspect”.

inspect external link attribute

This will bring up the HTML code, where you’ll be able to see the link attributes.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to understand the code – just look for link attributes:

    • If you DON’T see a link attribute, then it is a dofollow link.
    • If you see a rel= “nofollow”, then the link is a nofollow link.

nofollow link example

It’s as simple as that. You can also use a browser extension to help but it’s better to understand basic code yourself.

26. Ensure Your Link Is Not Tagged As “UGC” or “Sponsored”

UGC and sponsored are link attributes that a website owner tags links with to give Google more information about why the link is in the content.

This is what they mean:

    • rel= “sponsored” = Link has been paid to be put there
    • rel= “UGC” = Link has been generated by a user

For link building – you don’t want either of these tags. Links with these tags offer very little SEO value.

You can check them the same way as checking nofollow links. Just right-click on the link and then click “Inspect”.

sponsored link example

If you don’t see rel=”sponsored” or rel=”UGC”, then you are good.

27. Check The Page Can Be Indexed

A link is only worthwhile if it gets into Googles index but sometimes the page your backlink is on doesn’t make it into Google index.

This can happen for a number of reasons:

  1. Maybe there is a noindex meta tag set
  2. Perhaps its excluded in the robots.txt file
  3. Or the hidden x-robots-tag is set to noindex

The best way to check this is with the free Robots Exclusion Checker extension:

robots exclusion checker tool

It will immediately tell you whether a URL can be indexed or not.

It only takes a few seconds to check and will ensure you get the value you deserve from your link building efforts.

If you have a link that passes this test but still isn’t getting indexed, take a look at this backlink indexing tutorial.

Download The Link Building Checklist Now

Want to save this link building checklist for later?

Download It Here.

Then you’ll always have a copy handy the next time you want to build high quality links step by step!

Wrapping It Up

There you have it.

The ultimate link building checklist (DOWNLOAD PDF HERE)!

This checklist contains every step in the link building process to ensure that you are ONLY building high-quality links.

I’ve been building links using this process for over 10+ years.

It has helped our clients at LinksThatRank and SearchLogistics:

    • Increase their organic traffic
    • Create authoritative websites that rank at the top of Google

So, follow the checklist every time you build more links and you can achieve the same results.

BONUS: Take a look at the largest collection of SEO case studies on the web

Want to save the checklist for later?

Download the link building checklist so you always have a copy next to you whenever you are building links.

the ultimate link building checklist

Don’t want to build your own links?

Then consider outsourcing your link building needs to quality link building services.


Or you can just have LinksThatRank take care of it for you including everything in the link building checklist above!

Frequently Asked Questions

Link building is the process of creating backlinks from another site to your website to increase your visibility and rank in search engine results pages (SERPs). It involves researching link opportunities, creating valuable content and working with other websites to acquire links through outreach. Link building is an essential part of every successful SEO strategy.
Good quality link building includes multiple steps to ensure you only build backlinks that improve your SEO results. Link building is generally broken down into five sections:
  1. Preparing your link building campaign
  2. Finding backlink opportunities
  3. Evaluating the websites
  4. Creating content for link building
  5. Ensuring your links pass the "quality control" process
Download the ultimate link building checklist to have a proven process that helps you consistently build great backlinks.
There are tons of link building strategies out there. The top 5 link building strategies are: These link building strategies are all you need to build excellent quality backlinks for your website.
The best way to start link building is by following the ultimate link building checklist. It shows you every step in the link building process, including how to plan your link building campaign properly and the best link building strategies to use right now. Download your own copy of the link building checklist.
When it comes to link building services, you get what you pay for. Quality link building services generally charge:
  • $150 to $200 for a DR20 to DR34 link
  • $240 to $300 for a DR35 to DR50 link
  • $330 to $500 for a DR50+ link
Don't buy cheap links. This could end up hurting you in the future. Only pay for links from quality link building services you can trust.

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