This 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!
What Will I Learn?
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.
There are 3 reasons you need to analyse your backlink profile first:
Expect a solid backlink analysis to take about 30-45 minutes.
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!
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:
That makes sense, right?
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.
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:
You can use Ahrefs or Google Search Console to do both of those things.
Watch the video below for more information on the process:
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:
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!
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-
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:
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.
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.
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.
The next part is simple but important:
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.
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:
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.
Check My Links is also good, but you will have to do much more manual work to succeed.
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).
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.
This might be the easiest way to build links.
Unlinked mentions are when another website mentions your brand in a blog or article but doesn’t link to your site.
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:
This brings up results that could include unlinked mentions of your brand name.
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:
Or if you want to be super sure, you can setup a more global Google alert like:
intext:”searchlogistics” OR intext:”search logistics”
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!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
Head over to Google and type in:
This will bring up potential directories that you might want to submit your website to if its relevant and spam free:
Check out this directory link building guide to see 32 directories you can submit your site to right now!
Quality control is the single most important part of link building.
Let me be clear – all link building is against Google’s 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!
Evaluate every website using these criteria before you bother doing any outreach.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
Next you need to check that the website is not listed on the 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.
This is a completely free tool you should take advantage of.
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:
or Semrush to get an estimate of every website’s organic traffic.
It’s an easy step to ensure the quality of your link building!
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.
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.
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!
Check that the content on the site is-
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.
If you have followed the ultimate link building checklist (download) properly, you should have-
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.
This section of the link building checklist will ensure you only create quality content that both people and Google love!
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:
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!
Most websites have content guidelines.
Usually the website manager will give you the guidelines before you start creating the content.
If they don’t, just ask them.
You don’t want your content rejected at the last minute because you didn’t pay close enough attention to the guidelines initially.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Always add at least 1 internal link to another page on the target site within your content. Google loves internal links because:
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.
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.
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!
Most SEOs and bloggers agree that 1,000 words are the minimum that you should write for content.
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!
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.
Here are some tips to follow:
Take a look at my list of SEO copywriting hacks if you need any more help with this:
Your goal in editing each piece of content is to ensure the reader can find the information they want as quickly as possible.
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:
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”.
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:
It’s as simple as that. You can also use a browser extension to help but it’s better to understand basic code yourself.
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:
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”.
If you don’t see rel=”sponsored” or rel=”UGC”, then you are good.
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:
The best way to check this is with the free Robots Exclusion Checker extension:
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.
Want to save this link building checklist for later?
Then you’ll always have a copy handy the next time you want to build high quality links step by step!
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.
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.
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!