Like most online businesses, you are likely wanting to increase your search engine ranking. Doing so increases your organic traffic and, if you are able to reach the number 1 or 2 spot on Google, it will also lower the amount you need to spend on Google ad placements. All in all, it’s a win-win for brands to increase their rankings.

But, it isn’t just on-site search engine optimization that helps to boost your site to the top of search results. You also need to build credibility –– and you do that with backlinking, also known as generating inbound links.

Links are extremely important for improving organic search visibility. According to Moz’s 2015 SEO Ranking Factors Report, link metrics are the two most influential factors in Google’s algorithm.

Moz 2015 Search Ranking Factors Report

Source: Moz’s 2015 SEO Ranking Factors Report

There are two different ways to think about generating links: earned links and outreach links, and both are important to Google’s SERP

Earning backlinks for your longform content is a great way to produce quantity links. Keep in mind that receiving links from spammy or low quality sites is not only unhelpful, it could be harmful –– so make sure that if you are using a backlinking strategy for your longform content, that the sites are relevant to your audience.

Now, backlinking via outreach –– the most popular way to earn backlinks to your longform content –– is not an easy process, but it can be well worth the time spent, especially if you are taking the time to craft truly intelligent and helpful content (which if you’re creating content at all, you should be!).

Here’s how to make sure that you are optimizing for SEO from the get go with all of your longer form content:

  • First, do a bit of research on an SEO tool like Ahrefs. Type in your target keyword or topic for the post or resource into their Content Explorer and see what comes up. Let’s use “lavender oil blends” for this example. Ahrefs displays relevant content with the most shares and backlinks, which generally corresponds to high search engine rankings.

lavender 1

  • Pull up a couple of the top ranked articles in another tab and then click that little world button to sort the listing based on number of linkbacks.

lavender 2

  • Pull up a couple of articles –– not landing pages or advertising pages, you may have to scroll to find the best ones –– and read through everything you’ve pulled up to this point. These are the articles your new article needs to out-do either in relevancy, helpfulness or education.
  • Perform Google searches for relevant queries to find any additional content that may have slipped through the cracks. While the rankings you see are dynamic and not reflective of absolute position, it’s a strong indicator of how the Ahrefs data corresponds to actual rankings.
  • Next, write your article and determine for sure what your target keyword will be for the piece. A slight variation of your original term may get considerably more search volume, so this step can lead to significantly more traffic down the line. Sometimes content goes in a different direction when you write it versus when you’re doing the original keyword research. That’s okay. If that happens, redo the steps above. If it doesn’t, you’re ready to pull up potential backlinks.
  • Find the article in Ahrefs that you aimed to out-do, and then click on those backlinks. Export that data.


  • Now comes the manual part. Go to each of those sites, or however many you want, and find a contact. You can keep track of everything in a Google spreadsheet –– in fact, this will come in handy later. Make sure that each of the sites is relevant to your target audience and that they are indeed interested in your type of content.
  • Next, use a Google add-on like Yet Another Mail Merge and set up a personalized email to send out to these contacts, letting them know you’ve published the new content and asking them to share or linkback. Yet Another Mail Merge will keep track of open rates for you. Here is what that looks like:


There are dozens of email automation tools that can be used for outreach, but remember: personalization is key. You’re highly unlikely to receive links from credible sources with emails that sound awkward and robotic. This process can be manual and may be best outsourced. But, get enough linkbacks overtime and your entire site will be boosted in organic search results –– the effort is well worth the output for well crafted content.

All right –– let’s talk about generating high quality links. It’s important to create an inbound link strategy centered around relevant and authoritative sources. A few places to start are:

  • Map Listings: Submit your site to the major map listings and internet yellow page providers, such as Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, InfoUSA, Acxiom.
  • Guest Blogging: Find blogs that are relevant to your industry or product, and offer to provide educational articles or content. Typically, you can include a link within the author byline or within the actual text of the article.


Bigcommerce regularly writes guest posts for partner blogs, like this one shown on Square’s Townsquare blog.

  • Product Reviews: Send free product to bloggers in exchange for a review. Be sure that the blogger includes a disclosure notice, indicating that they have received something from your company. Most reputable bloggers are aware of this requirement, but it’s in your best interest to remind them when working out the details.
  • Product Giveaways: Send free product to bloggers with the intention of having them run a giveaway promotion on their site. Again, make sure they include a disclosure notice on their site and in any social media posts about the giveaway.


NaturallyCurly.com has used giveaways for years as a way to build their audience, linkbacks and increase partnership promotions.


Overall, a smart backlinking strategy is no easy feat. Many companies hire internally for this role specifically. After all, it can have a huge, positive impact on your bottom line when executed properly.

Have any questions or concerns on how to implement anything? Leave them in the comments below!