As a small business owner or marketing specialist it will come as no shock to learn that your website has a better chance of ranking well in search engines depending on a quartet of SEO factors: those being backlinks, technical, mobile, and content. When all four are utilised effectively, your website will fire on all cylinders. In this article we will be discussing the significance of one of these ranking factors, backlinks, and why it’s not how many you build but how you set about acquiring them that matters.

I’m turning to a visual guide to break down the vital components of link building through the most commonly adopted techniques. The Periodic Table of Link Acquisition for SEO is a digital marketing resource to educate people working in the industry on the value of varying layers of link building tactics. I’ve split the layers into three, categorized here as link begging, link building, and link earning.

periodic table of link building

How should you decide which tactics to allocate time and resources to for maximum impact? There are many ways to address this, and a great starting point is what to know what Google is looking for from marketers in 2017.

Introducing link earning tactics for SEO

The term “link earning” was publicly coined in 2012 by Rand Fishkin. Once the phrase met SEO mainstream appeal, others followed with best practice guides and ways to transition from the old school of thought to the new. Simply put, it follows the precedent set by Google for a higher caliber of information on the web and a distancing from spammy behavior of the past. It is spoken of in the same circles as content marketing and inbound marketing as all three strive for exceptional content and storytelling. Content of a high grade makes the biggest impact when coupled with a razor-sharp promotional strategy, which is why link earning relies heavily on building relationships with people in high places. This presents a very natural way for a brand to acquire links but also to capitalize on the referral traffic and user engagement on account of the backlink pathway. The table above encourages the following tactics for link earning:

  • Partner collaboration
  • Influencer collaboration
  • Blogger collaboration
  • Educational collaboration
  • Non-profit collaboration
  • Web mentions
  • Social
  • Communities
  • Interactive
  • Authorship
  • Newsjacking

Introducing link building tactics for SEO

Link building remains a fundamental component for SEO success. It is broad term comprising of older, more traditional methods as well as the more technically sound approach to building a backlink profile. Content marketing experts may insist that link building is dying out however those from an algorithmic standpoint will argue the case for the benefits of being practical about links, no matter how small or low quality they may be. Take the example of listing a business profile to all appropriate local directories – this cannot compete with producing 10x content for mass media, but it may be a smooth gateway to conversions and leads depending on the context. Fixing up broken links and bolstering link count from one page to another can also work to strengthen the link framework of a website whilst complimenting the larger content-led activity.

The table above highlights the following tactics for link building:

  • Local directories
  • Local news
  • Local job portals
  • Local forums
  • Broken links
  • Page interlinking

Introducing link begging tactics for SEO

The web is by no means an environment free of murky tactics and despite Google pushing for change there will always remain an underbelly of back-hat activity. We’re referring to the likes of link schemes as a means of stacking up a link profile and driving higher visibility for keywords through SERPs. Such tactics were once a force to be reckoned with and widely accepted on merit. Paying for links is no longer something to be proud of, nor is it rewarded by Google in any way. Links built on a large scale having been paid for will likely be discounted altogether as SEO signals.

The table above denounces the following tactics as link begging:

  • Paid competitions
  • Paid scholarships
  • Paid advertorials
  • Paid blogging
  • Text links

Advice for link acquisition in 2017 should be taken as guidance and used where applicable as no two websites may have identical goals or objectives. It’s always wise to take a note from other people in your industry about tactics that are working well for them, and asking link building communities about pitfalls to avoid for greater success.