Defining link building strategies

Difference between strategy and techniques

One of the fundamental requirements for defining a correct strategy when it comes to link building is to differentiate between what is a strategy and the techniques that will be carried out to execute that strategy.

While the strategy is the general action plan used to achieve a goal, techniques are defined as the procedures used to carry out a strategy and achieve said goal

Although this may seem obvious, the reality is that I encounter many cases of agencies and companies that embark on their link building and digital public relations campaigns without having defined a prior strategy. Take for instance, The other day, a client of Link Affinity in the ‘Floristry’ sector mentioned that they didn’t know how to secure organic collaborations with media outlets.
I asked if they had a communication plan or defined strategy, and their response was:

No. We just want to get backlinks. That’s our plan.

My response was:

Having a tool is useless if you don’t have a strategy. Link Affinity offers great features to execute your strategies, but it’s like opening Photoshop without knowing what you want to design.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common mistakes when it comes to link building. Not only thinking solely about getting backlinks but also rushing to secure these backlinks without a established plan. He preguntados a algunos/as expertos/as sobre este asunto y Bárbara Rodriges López SEO specialist at Ilerna asserts that:

Planning is essential. Before diving into action, it’s imperative to have a well-developed script that includes all the steps to follow in the strategy. This will ensure a consistent and effective execution.” – Bárbara Rodriguez López, SEO Specialist at Ilerna

Another very useful piece of advice comes from Emanuele Ricciotti, CEO of the agency ClickAge, when it comes to defining a strategy:

The main thing is not to think of obtaining backlinks as the sole purpose, but to deeply understand the client, how the industry works, and what the competitors are doing. Nowadays, it’s essential to understand link building as a means to gain brand recognition, not just backlinks.” – Emanuele Ricciotti, CEO of ClickAge agency

Regarding this point, there is a whole debate in the industry. From my point of view, and it’s something I’ve been advocating for many years, link building has evolved significantly, and thinking exclusively about links can be a fatal mistake. This natural evolution leads us to work much more on real relationships and appearances in media that provide us with thematic authority. To put it simply, what we need now is not to obtain a mathematical value of PageRank, DR, DA, or whatever, but to convey signals to search engines and our audience that we are relevant to a certain topic. I particularly like some of the points added by Search Engine Land in this article about digital public relations, where one of the key ideas is highlighted:

  • Digital public relations for SEO are not just about links and brand mentions. Links and mentions are part of reputation.
Link building focused solely on acquiring mathematical authority through links (although some may deny it) is becoming less effective, I dare say that in certain cases, it has ceased to work altogether. Digital public relations and link building have gradually converged to become part of each other and vice versa. Digital public relations should align with our SEO strategy, and link acquisition should align with the PR and communication strategy.

Is it a must to conduct a prior audit?

This is another important point I wanted to address in this article. A situation we often encounter is a client who wants to hire link building and digital public relations services, and when you propose a preliminary phase where we audit their link profile, understand the project, its objectives, communication strategy, and content plan, they say they just want backlinks and that the budget they’ve approved should include backlinks from day one. Moreover, sometimes they mention that with link-selling platforms, they can buy hundreds of links with just one click, without any prior audit. As David Ayala mentioned in the Caffinity about link building strategies, if you applied this to any other sector, everyone would see it as madness. Imagine going to a doctor and telling them you want heart surgery. No, right??

Without a prior analysis and its corresponding diagnosis, no one will operate on you.

So, whether you offer link building services or you’re hiring them, the answer is, YES. You need a prior audit before diving into getting backlinks.

Essential steps to define a link building strategy

Some professionals believe that defining objectives in link building and digital public relations doesn’t make sense, arguing that it’s about acquiring backlinks and increasing brand visibility. However, by conducting a thorough analysis of objectives in detail, you’ll see that each project has its own peculiarities and specific goals. Additionally, I recommend aligning with the communication department. You shouldn’t just jump in to work on media visibility without coordinating with this department. Here are some tasks you can perform to define your strategy. Of course, apply all those you know and that may serve you well

  • Analyze your link profile

If we don’t know the past and present of a project, it’s impossible to work towards improving its future. That’s why one of the actions you must take when defining a link building and digital public relations strategy is to analyze the link profile before starting. It’s not just about generating a simple report of a domain’s authority, but working thoroughly to understand the strategies that have been previously implemented and determining cleanup actions if necessary.

So, the first point of a link building strategy arises from this analysis, where you must clarify

  • Artificial links

“I refer to artificial links as those obtained through strategies that do not comply with Google’s guidelines. These could be links purchased on sites solely for the purpose of ranking or any other technique that indicates a link has been obtained solely for SEO benefit.

If it’s found that such techniques have been employed, it’s advisable to conduct a thorough analysis. This could involve either disavowing certain domains, attempting to remove those links, or if the volume is not significant, simply taking it into account to establish a strategy that adds real value and negates the potential negative effects of such links. Check the ‘Naturalness’ value of your link profile as it will provide many clues.

  • Spam

Although these types of links are generated automatically and do not correspond to deliberately performed artificial linking strategies, it’s important to keep them under control in case it’s necessary to submit a disavow file to Google. In that case, I recommend reading my article about the impact of the disavow file on positioning and how to detect if it’s necessary to disavow links. With Link Affinity, you can keep spam entering your link profile under control on a recurring basis.

  • Broken links

One of the major overlooked aspects in link profile analysis is the presence of broken links, which are links that have been lost due to changes made on our own website. Sometimes, we spend hours closing a collaboration with a media outlet and forget to periodically monitor if this link has been lost because our URL has disappeared, the product is discontinued, or for any other reason. Tools such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, Sitrix, or Majestic SEO can help you monitor broken links in your profile. Remember that not all broken links require the same level of effort to fix. Just as you would with a new link, determine its importance to allocate efforts accordingly

  • High affinity links

Knowing the links that contribute the most value in terms of semantic affinity is important for defining the type of media we will work with in the strategy. You probably know what a ‘Buyer persona’ is. Well, it’s the same thing. Except in this case, what you’re defining is the perfect profile of a media outlet where you should appear, and your strategy should focus on these types of outlets. With Link Affinity, you can extract a report of semantically related media to establish this target media profile.

  • Identify opportunities

  • Opportunity terms

It’s about identifying those areas that present the best opportunities for ranking. To carry out this process, you have various tools available such as Sistrix, Semrush, or Ahrefs. If you know of any other tool that provides similar information, don’t hesitate to use it.

These tools offer detailed reports on search terms and URLs that are ranking, based on their database. Most of these platforms allow you to select the specific country, which is useful if you’re planning link building strategies targeted at a particular country. Personally, I find the Sistrix tool very useful for this type of task. You just need to go to the ‘Keywords’ section to access the raw data. In Sistrix, there’s also an option called ‘Opportunities’ whose main function is to find terms for which your competition is ranking, but you’re not.

Alternatively, you can search for terms that rank between 11 and 50 using the keyword option in Sistrix or the organic search option in Semrush or Ahrefs. Any of these three tools provide this data. Export it to a spreadsheet to identify the URLs with the most opportunities and potential traffic.

  • Competitor links

It’s not about reaching out to every media outlet that links to our competitors to get a backlink, but rather detecting strategies created by these competitors to include them in our strategy if deemed appropriate. David Ayala gives us this advice:

It’s very important not only to focus on the positive aspects of their link profile, but also on what they are not doing ‘quite right’. If we copy exactly what the competition is doing, we’ll also be copying what they’re doing wrong.” – David Ayala, SEOluciones



  • Content strategy

  • Cluster definition

In your strategy, define the clusters you’re going to work with or prioritize. Always aligned with business and communication. Think of the typical clustering graph with ‘Pillar Hubs,’ ‘Clusters,’ and ‘Topics.’ Let’s say one of the objectives of the strategy is to promote the ‘Bicycles’ category, from which the clusters ‘Mountain Bikes’ and ‘Road Bikes’ hang. Analyze if there are any relevant contents in the project that fit into those themes and define, along with the client, a plan for self-publications and media-related to the target clusters, such as: ‘Types of Mountain Bikes.’

With the help of OpenAI, you can get very interesting ideas to assist with the strategy. Like everything generated by AI, you should review it carefully and adjust as needed. 

The objective is to become a reference within a specific theme, both through internal content and content published in media, using ideas/topics related to your target clusters. Additionally, if you support these contents with experts who are part of the project and can contribute their knowledge and experience to these contents, effectiveness is multiplied. If you don’t have experienced professionals available, you can seek collaborations with external experts to review, provide data, and lend credibility to all these publications. One of the tips given to us by Victor Beneitez is:

The post or content has to provide the user with as much as possible (novelty, high-quality content…) to encourage reading, interaction, and potential clicks on the link.” – Víctor Benéitez Panizo, SEO Manager at Marketing Paradise

  • Internal linking

Internal linking is often overlooked as agencies and clients focus all their efforts on acquiring external links. If you want to leverage all the value provided by inbound links to your project, you must manage how that value is distributed internally across your website.

Utilize your content clustering strategy to link related URLs. This not only aids search engines but is also very useful for your users.


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