Types of Link Building that Boost Your SEO Ranking



White-hat SEO recognises five types of link building: backlinks, internal links, external links, niche edits, and natural backlinks.


Key Takeaways:

  • Backlinks are the most common type, produced when a website other than your own links to your content.
  • Internal links bridge pages within your site for easier navigation and crawling by search engine bots.
  • External links improve your brand’s image as an authority in its niche by citing credible sources.
  • Niche edits insert links and related text in a part of an existing article or blog post, making it a good alternative to content writing.
  • Natural backlinks are links delivered unconditionally by users or other sites. As pure as they are, they’re the hardest to achieve.

Ask any SEO expert about what makes content worth ranking at the top of search engine results. Chances are that you’ll get wildly varying answers, ranging from ones based on everything we know to those based on, as Brian Dean of Backlinko puts it, “SEO nerd speculation.”

But if I have to provide an answer, I’d narrow it down to three basics: helpful content, good keywords, and quality link building. For the record, I’m not saying that these are the only ranking factors search engines use (Google alone uses over 200). However, these three often come up in most SEO discussions, guides, and even major algorithm updates.

We’ll talk about content and keywords in another post. This one will focus on link building, specifically the different types you can use to improve your link profile. As you’ll learn by the end of this piece, there’s more to link building than backlinks.

  1. Backlinks

    Nevertheless, let’s kick things off with the kind everyone knows – backlinks. Also known as inbound links, these links result from third-party sites linking to your resource pages or any part of your site, mainly because your content fulfils the needs of their content.

    For example, this link leads to Ahrefs’ comprehensive link building guide. By conventional link building wisdom, Ahrefs has a backlink from NO-BS Marketplace (specifically on this blog post page). We’re contributing to that site’s credibility because we’re industry experts, pushing the guide’s ranking up in search results.

    Conversely, if Ahrefs links one of our blog posts in its content, we receive a backlink from it. The result is the same; only this time, the link exchange contributes to our site’s credibility because Ahrefs is a well-known brand in the SEO industry. If anything, the weight of its contribution is more significant than ours, which the algorithm also considers.

    Backlink analytics is essential because it shows how major search engines perceive the authority of your website, considering the number of quality backlinks you possess. By understanding your backlink profile using a backlink analytics tool, you can discover chances to enhance link equity and eliminate any detrimental links that may be penalizing your website. Link building tools like Semrush or Moz Pro provide website owners insights and metrics on the backlink profile of different websites (including their own), aiding in the evaluation and improvement of their link building strategy.

  2. Internal Links

    These links connect a page to another page within the site or domain. If I want to lead you to another blog post for further information or a product or service page because I feel it’s relevant, I’ll link it here.

    Quality links are vital in building an SEO-friendly site hierarchy (also called site structure or site architecture). Think of this as building new bridges for easier access by search engine crawlers and, more importantly, visitors. With the link above, you won’t have to backtrack to the blog’s main page, saving you time.

    The links also help search engines index every page on a site and tell them how relevant these indexed pages are to one another. It’s not like you can holler the algorithm and say, “Hey! I have a page here! Rank it!”

    Effective link building strategies involve acquiring high quality backlinks while strategically using internal links to distribute that authority throughout your website for a more robust SEO strategy. For example, Google Search Console provides tools and information for web admins and link builders to track, improve, and fix issues (like broken pages or broken links) with their websites in organic search results.

  3. External Links

    External links work the opposite way compared to backlinks. These links lead out of your site and to another one, whether you (but not your own site) or somebody else owns that site. If backlinks are inbound, then these are outbound links.

    You might ask, “How will leading visitors away from my site help with my SEO?” External links may not improve SEO in the same way backlinks and internal links do, but they do so in other ways. For instance, Google favours Your Money Your Life (YMYL) content backed by sources in the form of external links.

    Even if your content isn’t YMYL, having a few high domain authority external links is a great way to boost your website traffic and online presence. They position your content as an authority on a topic, which is one of Google’s major content quality factors, better known as E-E-A-T. Checking if a link is worth adding to your content is as easy as using a backlink analytics tool.

  4. Niche Edits

    Link building strategies encompass various white hat link building techniques to secure valuable links. The examples so far involve producing content from the ground up. But did you know that you don’t need to make a well-written piece to perform page link building? If an existing piece is too good not to link to your site, niche edits are a viable option.

    A niche edit inserts the link and the accompanying context into a part of the article or blog post. Sometimes, the edit only involves replacing broken pages (broken link building) or placing the links in some unlinked brand mentions (link reclamation). It’s perfect for business owners looking to save on their link building campaign expenses while improving organic traffic on their websites.

    Whatever your approach to niche editing, DON’T mistake it for editorial links. I’ve had a handful of clients who breathed down my neck for delivering results with such a faulty mindset. Think of the latter as a more refined version.

  5. Natural Backlinks

    As their name implies, natural backlinks are those you never asked for. No black hat tactics involved, this is link building at its purest, inspiring users and other content creators to link to your content piece without any payment or exchange of goods or services. It’s just as the Big G wants.

    Source: Adobe Stock

    However, it’s the hardest type of link building outreach to pull off. I’d even say it’s next to impossible because incentives for sharing quality content are scarce, even for the right reasons. That doesn’t mean natural link building tactics aren’t worth trying because success here is satisfying and can compound over time.

    Success relies on creating high quality linkable assets that influencers genuinely want to share across their social media platforms and other media outlets. Incorporating elements of digital PR and ego bait into your manual outreach link building and content marketing strategies can nudge influencers in the right direction. By creating content that positions them as thought leaders or features them prominently, you can increase the chances of them sharing your work, including your guest posts, visual assets, and social media links.

    Aside from press releases, guest posting, and influencer marketing, the skyscraper technique is a link building pro tip that identifies high-performing content with visual assets and strong backlinks. You can use a link building tool to find these indexed pages or a backlink analytics tool to analyse their backlinks, including anchor text and guest post links. By creating even better content that surpasses the original and targets relevant exact match anchor text, you can reach out to the sites and suggest your valuable content (like an original research case study) as a replacement. This increases the chances of earning natural links because you’re offering a superior resource that website owners will likely want to link to instead.

What is the Future of Link Building?

As it stands, these are the most common types of link building. But don’t think for a second that this list won’t get any longer. New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and voice search will influence local SEO across the board in a matter of years. Link building a decade or two from now won’t be like anything we have now.

One reason is the frequency with which search engine algorithms change. There’s reason to believe another major update will shake up the SEO industry, just as the Panda or Penguin update did in the early 2010s. You can say that the recent Core Update is one, but know that the algorithm changes more times in a short span than you think.

Nevertheless, some things will remain unchanged, like the quality-over-quantity mindset. SEO professionals are bullish that link building in the future will place more emphasis on establishing relationships, not just with customers but with relevant websites.

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