When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), backlinks remain one of, if not the most important ranking factors available. The more high-quality backlinks you can get to a web page, the higher it will rank on Google’s SERP. This is why link building should be the core of any SEO strategy, including for SaaS companies.
However, consistently securing high-quality backlinks—in practice—can be easier said than done, especially considering how competitive content marketing and SEO are in 2023. Not to mention, all of these challenges will simply escalate if you don’t know where to start.
This is why in this ultimate guide to SaaS link building, we’ll cover everything you’ll need to know about building your winning link-building strategy.
By the end of this guide, you’d have learned about:
- What is link building?
- The importance of link building strategy for SEO
- Unique challenges when executing link building for SaaS companies
- Link-building best practices
- Different types of link-building tactics
- Actionable tips for building your winning SaaS link-building strategy
Without further ado, let us begin this guide right away.
What is a link?
First, what is a “link” in an SEO context?
A “link” is short for hyperlink, which is technically a clickable object on internet content (a blog post, a video content, etc.) that allows you to jump to another location when you click—or tap—on it.
The technical function of a link is for users to jump between different places (mainly web pages or sites) on the internet. Within the scope of this function, there are three types of hyperlinks:
- Internal links: links between pages from the same website
- Outbound links: links from your website going to another website. If you link to another website, they get a backlink from you
- Inbound links: also called backlinks, are links from another website pointing to your website
This means if you have a website, the natural function of these links is to bring more people (traffic) to your website. When someone clicks on a backlink pointing to your website, you get what we call referring traffic.
However, in the context of SEO, links have another important function.
Google and most other mother search engines treat links as votes of confidence. That is, when a website links to another, this website is essentially saying that the other website is credible and trustworthy. This is just like having someone in the real world write a letter of recommendation for you. The more letter of recommendation you can get, the more likely employers will hire you.
With the same analogy, what if a letter of recommendation comes from someone famous or prominent in your niche? Obviously, it would also offer more weight. The same would apply to links, and links coming from popular and established websites would also weigh more.
If, for example, you have a website covering the digital marketing niche, having one of your pages linked by Mashable or Forbes would weigh more than having your page linked by 50 brand-new websites nobody know about, much less if the website isn’t coming from the digital marketing niche.
Google and other search engines regularly index and crawl pages on the internet to check for new links. The more links a website has, the more likely Google will promote it to rank higher on its SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages.) Google also crawls established and popular websites more often than brand-new websites. Thus, if your website is linked by a popular website, Google may discover it faster.
What is link building?
Now that we’ve understood what links are and what they mean in SEO, we can discuss the concept of link building.
Link building is, simply put, a strategic effort to get backlinks from other websites, especially established and relevant websites. There are typically two main objectives of link building:
- Generating more referring and qualified traffic to your website, which will help you achieve various other objectives
- Improving the website’s ranking on Google’s (and other search engines’) SERPs, which in turn will help you generate more organic traffic
Technically, link building is a type of off-page SEO; optimizations that are performed outside your website.
Backlinks: how Google determines quality of links
Above, we have briefly explained how a backlink coming from established websites would be valued more than those coming from low-quality and/or brand-new websites. However, although this has been Google’s intention from the start, Google hasn’t always been able to accurately assess the quality and context of links.
In the early days of the internet and the more “primitive” search engine algorithms, black hat and grey hat SEO tactics are common, if we can’t say “the norm.” Back then, it was a common SEO practice to stuff a web page with numerous backlinks from low-quality sites in combination with keyword stuffing practices. These kinds of tactics simply work back then, but it’s no longer the case these days.
Today, Google has a very advanced algorithm that is also really smart at understanding the context and intent of each link of a website. How Google assesses and weighs a link’s quality has never been completely made public, but here are the factors that what we know:
Pretty obvious, pages with higher traffic are considered higher in quality than pages with less traffic. Organic traffic—traffic coming directly from search engine results clicks—is weighed more than other types of traffic.
2. Domain authority
Domain authority is a pretty vague metric, but generally, it refers to how established a domain is.
Some factors that may affect authority:
- Not always, but the older the website is, the more authoritative it is
- How many unique domains link to this particular domain (and the authority of these linking websites)
- The unique domains linked by the domain (external/outbound links.)
How relevant is a linking website to the linked website also matters. For example, if you are a sports website covering golf, a link from a restaurant website would weigh less than a link coming from another site in the golf niche.
4. Dofollow link
We can tag an HTML hyperlink with the rel=“nofollow tag, which will tell Google and the other search engines not to count this tagged link as a ranking factor. Links without this tag are called dofollow links, and only dofollow links will help your site’s SEO performance.
It’s also important to remember that links coming from social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are always considered as nofollow links.
Keep in mind that Nofollow links aren’t always worthless and, in some cases, can help your site’s SEO performance. It can also perform its natural function of bringing referral traffic to your webstie.
5. Anchor text
Anchor text is the clickable text of the hyperlink. While it’s not a very prominent quality indicator when compared to authority or relevance, an appropriate anchor text will help Google understand the context and intent behind the backlinks.
6. Link placement
Links that are placed in the body of the content (the main section of the page) are considered higher in quality than links that are placed in the sidebar or the footer area.
The importance of a link building strategy
Link building should be a critical part of any SEO strategy, simply due to the importance of backlinks and link profiles as ranking factors.
Without a sizable amount of high-quality backlinks, your page won’t climb in ranking, period. Not to mention, more backlinks will also translate into greater (valuable) traffic to the website.
So, how can we get these backlinks?
Acquiring backlinks: the key mindset
Above anything else, remember that the natural function of a backlink is a vote of confidence for your page, or to be more exact, the content of the page.
Thus, the most important factor determining the ability of a page to generate backlinks is the content’s quality and relevance. If your content is well-researched, high-quality, and relevant to your target audience’s search intent, then sooner or later, you’ll get these backlinks.
On the other hand, no amount of tactics and marketing efforts could help low-quality content rank higher.
It’s crucial to understand that there’s no shortcut to this. Before planning any link-building strategy, make sure your content is already high-quality and relevant.
Thus, what is the role of the link building strategy we’ll discuss below? It is to make sure already well-developed content can get the best chance possible to get backlinks from as many authoritative sources as possible.
An effective link building strategy would enhance a content’s ability to generate high-quality backlinks in a sustainable way.
Different ways to get backlinks
Before we’ll jump into actionable tips and tactics we can use to build a link building strategy, let’s discuss the three main ways we can get more backlinks to a web page: earning, creating, and outreaching:
- Earned backlinks
Earning backlinks refers to how someone discovers your content/page on their own, and then willingly links your page or website.
The process of getting earned backlinks is called natural link building, which can happen when:
- Someone cites your content as a source of credible information.
- Someone mentions your website since you can provide additional information related to their page’s content
- They interviewed someone related to your website (i.e., you)
And so on.
As you can see, earned backlinks are only given when there’s a special and specific reason to do so. In practice, optimizing your website and your content to reach this level can be challenging and/or time-consuming. You’ll need attractive, high-quality, up-to-date, and comprehensive content worth linking to.
Due to this fact, earned backlinks are also the most valuable and sustainable. This is why when developing your link building strategy, natural link building to get more of these earned backlinks should be your main focus.
2. Created backlinks
Created, or artificial backlinks are generally the worse type of backlinks available and, in many cases, can be technically illegal. These backlinks are often only created to trick Google’s algorithm into thinking that your content is relevant and valuable, while it isn’t actually the case.
Some examples of these artificial backlinks are:
- Paid backlinks. Pretty self-explanatory; you pay a website to link yours. This practice is considered link spam by Google.
- Spamming other blogs or social media posts’ comment sections with links pointing to your website.
- Spamming forum threads with your links.
However, there are some forms of created backlinks that are considered tolerable, like linking to your own website when guest posting on your website or when submitting your business on online directories.
Nevertheless, this type of link building strategy should be avoided, or at least shouldn’t be the focus of your link building strategy. Google actively monitors websites for potentially illegal link building schemes, and if caught, your site could be penalized (even permanently) from ranking on Google SERP.
3. Outreached backlinks
Link building outreach refers to the practice of reaching out (hence, outreach) to website owners, and persuading them to link to your site (while giving a viable reason for them to do so.)
The majority of link building tactics are outreaching by nature. It is effective and also affordable, making it the favorite especially for smaller, newer websites.
Some examples of link-building outreach are:
- Sending a press release that contains a link to your website and getting it published by relevant media
- Guest posting, reaching out to other websites, and asking for opportunities to contribute as an author on their blog. You can include a link to your website on this guest post
- Sponsoring an event or a website, so your website is linked and mentioned as a sponsor
Effective link building tactics for SaaS companies
While there are numerous link building tactics you can leverage, below are some of the most effective ones you can use in the SaaS niche:
- Incorporating link hooks in your content
While we’ve mentioned how high-quality content will always get backlinks, some types of content get linked more than other types, for example:
- Unique data and statistics
- White papers
- Guide/instructional content
- Unique stories not available anywhere else
What do these types of content have in common? They either offer unique information or aesthetically-pleasing assets.
Thus, a good practice is to incorporate these elements in your content, which we call “link hooks.”
For example, even if it’s a text-based blog post, you can incorporate related, well-designed infographics in it. This can give potential link sources more reason to link this page.
Once you’ve developed and published these attractive link hooks, you can also be proactive and start reaching out to potential link sources and offer them to link your page or asset.
2. Broken link building
Broken link building is a fairly “old” link building technique, but it’s still a popular technique because it’s both effective and easy to execute.
As the name suggests, broken link building involves broken links, which are outbound links on websites that can no longer be accessed by users and search engines, typically returning the 404 error code when clicked.
There are a lot of these broken links spread across the internet, and most likely, you’ve stumbled into one of them.
There are various broken link finder tools available, for example, LinkMiner. Various popular SEO solutions like Ahrefs or SEMRush also offer broken link checker functionality.
The typical broken link building tactic follows this process:
- Find potential link sources first. A good approach is to find content similar to what you are developing (i.e., your competitors’) and check their backlink sources. You can target these link sources and input their URLs into your broken link checker tool of choice.
- Find broken links that are related to your niche, and ideally, ones of which you already have content published that is related to this broken link’s anchor text. Alternatively, you can develop brand-new content.
- Politely outreach to the website owner and mention the broken link while offering your content as a potential replacement.
3. Ego bait tactic
As the name suggests, in this tactic, you are baiting your target backlink sources to give their backlinks by playing with their ego.
The basic idea is to praise this website owner (or the brand/website) and make them feel comfortable and flattered by your praise, with the hope that they’ll willingly link your website.
As you can see, this tactic leverages basic human psychology: virtually everyone likes to be praised, and this is why this tactic has a fairly high success rate.
There are many ways we can use to execute an ego bait tactic, including:
- Solo interview
The best type of ego bait tactic. In a solo interview, the object automatically becomes the sole focus. Thus, any praise you give them would seem authentic, and they are more likely to give their backlink.
Nowadays, you can conduct the interview completely online. Contact a website owner (or someone in the company) and ask whether they’ll be interested in an interview. If you get a yes, then you can simply send a list of questions for them to answer via email, Slack, or other online messaging tools.
Once you’ve got the answers, you can publish them on your website and notify the source so they can mention this content on their website (and give you a backlink), social media, or other platforms they have.
In fact, if they like the article, it’s likely they’ll spread the word by themselves.
- Group roundup
In a group roundup, as the name suggests, you are interviewing and featuring multiple sources for the same topic (with the same questions.)
Thus, rather than sending 5-10 questions as you would in a solo interview, here you can send only one or two questions, depending on the topic. Of course, you should cover a topic that is relevant to your website and your business.
Once the sources answer your questions, you can create and publish content covering this topic, for example, “Look How 10 of The Best SEO experts shared Their 2023 SEO Tips.”
Since in a group roundup, you are featuring multiple people, you can potentially get more backlinks with just a single content than you would in a solo interview. Once the article is ready, make sure to contact the sources and encourage them to link and promote this article on their platforms.
- Ego bait listicle
In this approach, rather than interviewing the source first before creating the content, here we create the listicle content first, mention the target source within the content, and notify them.
For example, you can create content titled “10 of the Best Digital Marketing Agencies in California,” mentioning—as you can guess—10 digital marketing agencies. Then you can contact these agencies and send a link to this article.
4. Guest posting
The age-old guest posting tactic is still very effective when done right.
As the name suggests, this tactic involves contacting other websites and blogs and offering to write a piece of content as a guest author. Then within this guest content, you can squeeze in a link pointing to your website, technically netting you a backlink from this website or blog.
The thing is, now Google is closely monitoring guest blogging practices and will penalize guest posts that are solely focusing on generating backlinks and are not adequate in quality or relevance.
Yet, you shouldn’t need to worry. As long as your guest post is well-researched, high-quality, and relevant to the website’s topic/niche, it won’t be an issue.
Link building for SaaS companies: best practices
Below are principles and best practices to follow in order to build a winning link building strategy for your SaaS business:
- Content quality is key
Again, when it comes to link building, there’s no shortcut to having high-quality and relevant content, period.
If your content is relevant, informative, and valuable for the readers, then you will get those backlinks—provided the content is distributed and/or promoted properly.
With that being said, a good content marketing strategy should be the foundation of your link-building campaign. Make sure every piece of content you publish serves a purpose, so start with keyword research, and maintain SEO best practices when developing your content.
2. Maintain a diversified and natural link profile
To avoid unwanted Google penalties, it’s critical to ensure your link profile—especially your backlinks profile—is natural and diversified.
Make sure to maintain:
- Diversified backlink types. For example, not too many links from online directories or comment sections
- Diversified referring domains. Not too many links coming from a single domain.
- Natural and varied anchor texts
A very common mistake in link building is to put too much focus on getting backlinks from top websites only. Getting backlinks only from top-quality sources can, In fact, be counterproductive, and if you are unlucky, you could be penalized by Google.
Keep your link building efforts natural, and if possible, establish natural and lasting relationships with other websites, media, and businesses in your niche. Also, don’t forget to also link (outbound link) to their sites every now and then.
Maintaining a natural and diversified link profile should be your core focus when planning and executing your link building strategy.
3. Check for dofollow
Above, we have discussed the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, and the importance of dofollow links for your site’s SEO performance.
In general, unless it’s links coming from social media networks (including Wikipedia), you’ll always want dofollow links, so make sure to check for the presence of rel=“nofollow” tag whenever you get new backlinks, and clarify with the site owner if necessary (it it’s unintentional, they’ll willingly remove the tag in most cases.)
However, keep in mind that nofollow links aren’t without their values, and they can still generate valuable referral traffic to your website.
4. Pay attention to your target audience’s search intent
Even if your content is high-quality and well-researched, it won’t get much traction if it doesn’t meet your target audience’s search intent.
Where is this specific target audience positioned in your product or service’s buyer’s journey at the moment? Depending on who you as, there are three, up to five different stages in the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness: they just started becoming aware of their problem or pain point and want to look for more information about this problem. In this stage, their main search intent is to look for information regarding their problem, and to a lesser extent, they might also want to learn about your brand as a potential solution for their problem.
- Consideration: at this stage, they are comparing different potential solutions (Including your own.) Their main search intent is to find the best possible solution for their problem.
- Decision: they are already convinced that your solution is the most ideal for their situation. The main search intent here is to find more information to help them make their decision: to make or not to make the purchase.
The better you understand your target audience’s needs and their position on the buyer’s journey, the more likely you can publish relevant content for them. In the end, this relevant content will be the one earning you those quality backlinks.
5. Maintain a natural link velocity
Link velocity refers to the speed of getting backlinks.
Google prefers a natural link velocity, in which you gradually and naturally get more links as you publish more content on your website. Unnatural link velocity—both when your site suddenly gets a lot of backlinks at once and if your site suddenly stops getting backlinks—will get Google suspicious and may result in a penalty for your site.
To maintain a natural link velocity, it’s best to focus on just one or two effective link-building tactics rather than trying too many different things at once. Also, a very common cause of unnatural link velocity is due to paid backlinks, so avoid this practice (which we will discuss below.)
6. Never rely on paid backlinks
The golden rule is to never pay for any backlinks, especially from untrusted sources promising secret SEO schemes or tactics.
The reality is that there are no secret link-building tactics or hacks that can magically boost your search engine ranking, and even if there are, Google will notice this unnatural growth and will penalize your site right away.
Avoid any “SEO services” offering:
- Various link exchange schemes
- Personal Blog Networks (PBN) schemes
- Anything that appears with phrases like “paid content,” “promotional content”, and so on.
Google’s algorithms are getting much better at finding these paid links. It’s true that some of these tactics may work for the first few months or more. Yet, with how advanced Google’s algorithm is today, along with the fact that Google now employs thousands of staff with the task of evaluating websites daily, there’s a high likelihood you’ll get hit with manual penalties sooner or later.
In short, these paid link-building schemes are simply not worth it, and it’s very difficult or even impossible to “fix” your site once it has been penalized.
7. Optimize anchor texts
Above, we have discussed how anchor text is a link quality factor, but it also has a critical role in communicating the context of a link to both the search engine algorithm and especially to readers/users.
If, for example, 10 different pages link to the same page using the same—or at least roughly similar—anchor texts with similar context/meaning, Google will catch this signal, and your content will have a higher likelihood of ranking on keywords related to this anchor text.
When it’s appropriate, ask your link source to modify the anchor text they’ve used according to your target keyword.
Yet, keep in mind to keep things natural and use slight variations here and there. A sudden spike of too many backlinks with exactly the same anchor texts will alarm Google, and you may be investigated for manipulation.
Link building is a critical aspect of any SEO strategy, and you should always strive to get not only more backlinks—quantity-wise—but also ensure the quality of incoming backlinks.
By following the strategies and tips we’ve shared above, you are ready to develop a working link building strategy that will give your SaaS business a chance to compete at the very top of Google search rankings.