People sometimes think natural link building sounds like an oxymoron. After all, what is natural about actively building backlinks?
A natural link, surely, is one that you acquire over time because you have created useful content that the search engines eventually show to searchers, and they use it in their own content. No cold emails required!
Yes, of course, natural links accrue organically, but there are a lot of ways you can and should nudge or encourage people to link to your content, even if you aren’t directly reaching out to site owners and asking for backlinks.
In the below article, we will explore natural backlinks and, more importantly, what it means to “build” natural backlinks.
We will look at why Google loves natural backlinks, how they benefit you, and how to acquire them, including the type of content you need to create if you are trying to attract natural links and where and how to showcase it.
What, exactly, is a natural backlink?
Natural backlinks are the pinnacle of white hat links. They occur when you receive a backlink without having done any outreach.
They are often described as being the antithesis of “unnatural links” (i.e., those that are clearly designed to manipulate PageRank).
Search engines like Google love these links because they are the most robust trust signal another website can send. A writer found your content, thought it would add something to their own, and linked to it.
Links from other websites are one of the most important ranking factors because Google sees them as, essentially, recommendations (or votes of confidence) from other sites.
The more of these signals a page or domain has, the higher the likelihood that it’s high quality and an authority of a given topic. These are the metrics by which Google decides whether and where to show you on page one of the search engine results.
The opposite of natural link building is outreach-based link building. This is what we do at dofollow. We reach out to relevant, high authority websites on our clients’ behalf to secure them high quality backlinks.
We’re quite good at it, we have to say.
These are the kinds of links that we build for our clients on a regular basis and it all happens via outreach.
The importance of natural links
Link building is an important part of establishing an authoritative backlink profile, but you need natural links because they show others (and Google) that people like your content.
The more natural backlinks you can build, the higher your ranking. Combined with a good content strategy, and this is how you dominate the SERP.
Another great thing about natural link building is that you end up attracting links without having to spend a lot of time and money on outreach.
Of course you have to spend the initial time (and perhaps money) creating the content in the first place, and you might even consider SurferSEO to optimize your content for search (i.e., to ensure it’s satisfying search intent).
But natural links are basically free. There are no placement or other administrative fees that often come with building backlinks, and you aren’t paying others to build them for you.
What’s more, a preponderance of organic links is good for a natural-looking backlink profile. You end up with a much better diversity of links than if you were to solely rely on link building–which, for practical reasons, tends to force you to focus on a couple of specific methods, which result in specific types of backlinks.
Natural link building: the rub
The biggest issue you will find when it comes to natural links is that they are quite difficult to acquire.
There is so much content out there–with some 7.5 million new blog posts daily–so standing out in that incredibly large crowd is hard work. You need to be proactive in order for people to take note.
Getting natural links is even more difficult if you don’t already have an audience. People need to know your content exists before they can even think about linking to it.
The long and short of natural links vs link building
If you need or want to get as many links as possible in as short an amount of time as possible, then natural link building isn’t the best strategy.
Even with solid organic traffic, it can take quite some time for links to develop naturally because most of the people visiting your website aren’t doing so to link to your content. They’re reading it.
Outreach-based link building is what will develop your backlink profile the quickest and, done right (i.e., the kind of user-centric link building we do at dofollow), it can have a huge positive impact on your ranking and organic traffic.
Have a look at this case study we did for a client.
Our client, Nectar, an HR software provider, went from less than a thousand organic traffic a month to more than 50K over the span of several months of concerted link building efforts.
What you need to build natural links
There are 2 key components to natural link building and you need them both. They are:
- Very high-quality original content
- An audience who is going to see this content
The first part matters a lot because without stellar content, no one is going to link to it. There are simply too many options out there and if you don’t stand out, you’re lost. You need to offer something new that other content does not.
If you have a big, authoritative website with a lot of organic traffic, then you could still pick up some natural links even with just ok content, because so many people are viewing your site that you’re bound to do so.
The second part of the equation, your audience, is also vital. An audience (at least a few thousand people visiting your website every month) plus incredible content is what will land you natural backlinks.
How to get your content seen without using outreach
All of the below tactics help increase the odds that you generate natural links by upping your brand exposure and recognition.
Number 1: paid advertising
Paid ads are a great way to get your content to the top of Google. You can use paid advertising to generate links to your content by bidding on search terms that people use while looking for content to link out to.
Ahrefs tested this approach with a new statistics page they were trying to promote and for $1,245 of ad spend, they acquired 11 links from quality referring domains (at $113/link).
Number 2: Create statistics pages
Statistics pages using original data (and good visual representations of that data) are one of the tried and true natural link building methods.
Everyone is looking for original data and statistics to cover and help buttress points they’re trying to make.
If you are able to put together statistics in a way that is both compelling and that ranks in Google, you will often find that these resources will generate natural links for a long time to come.
Number 3: SEO optimize your content
It’s astonishing the number of people out there who are not optimizing their content for search engines.
If you want more natural links, you have to get your content in front of people. More exposure means more links, and the way you get that exposure is by writing content that satisfies search intent for the keywords you are targeting.
Using something like SurferSEO should be considered part of any good link building strategy because it’s how you maximize your visibility in Google.
Bear in mind that organic traffic and search engine optimization is not going to land you quick links. Google needs time to index new content and, if you’re going after competitive terms, you will need to do some initial link building to give your content a fighting chance in the rankings.
Number 4: Share content on social media
Social media is another important platform when building links, especially if you have a decent-sized following of engaged users.
Even better if your community includes other website owners who are on the lookout for content.
Every time you publish a new piece of content, social media should be a part of your link building campaign and considered an important piece of your off-page SEO efforts.
Number 5: Share content on forums and communities
You can often get high quality links from forums and communities if you are a known and valued member of that community.
This is why it pays to participate in these spaces and groups when you’re trying to do natural link building.
Number 6: Create newsletter content
You can also build links by creating a newsletter.
If you are able to get enough visitors to your website to sign up for a monthly, or weekly, or even quarterly newsletter (depending on your business and content generation schedule), you can get eyes on new content on a regular basis.
Newsletters take work to maintain and creating regular content (perhaps on top of your normal content schedule) can end up being a lot of effort.
But they are a great way to do natural link building because the people being shown your new content are actually asking for it.
Number 7: Create free tools
Free tools can be a great way to amass a lot of traffic. The catch is you need the tool to be useful enough for people to actually want to share it.
Conservation.org, for instance, has put together a carbon footprint calculator.
Now, of course, Conservation International is a brand name and any tool put out by them is bound to get a lot of traction.
But there are plenty of smaller sites and lesser brand names offering the same kind of tool to great effect.
These tools could be anything, as long as it pertains to your niche. It could be a mortgage rate calculator if you’re a CPA, or a settlement calculator if you’re a lawyer.
Number 8: Become a freelance writer in your space
One of the most underrated tactics for natural link building is to become an authority or thought leader in your space by becoming a freelance writer.
This can be not only a great way to build amazing incoming links from high authority blogs and websites, but to get your name out there as someone worth listening to and taking seriously on a given topic.
If you have expertise and real knowledge and insight to share, then it is absolutely worth your while to pitch story ideas to the leading blogs and publications in your industry.
You can get great links pointing to your site in your author bio, and you can get people searching for your name or more easily recognizing it when it comes up in search or on social media.
It also lets you create a “featured in” section on your website.
This adds additional credibility to your content and can help persuade people that it is worth linking to, which makes building natural backlinks easier.
You should also consider incorporating Google news feed into your content strategy. Here is a breakdown from Google on how to use their Publisher Center to submit RSS feeds, website URLs or videos.
This lets you amplify your content’s reach and potentially catch fire much easier than it otherwise would.
Natural link building is the long game
It’s important to keep in mind that the natural link game is the long game. Building links through outreach is going to land you more links than a natural link approach will in the short term.
With that said, you should always try to build links while waiting for those natural links to come in.
High quality links can absolutely be built–it’s what we at dofollow do for our clients every single day and it’s what we do for our own site.
You can’t sit around and wait for the natural links to accumulate while trying to run a business. It just doesn't work, especially if you’re in a highly competitive niche where other established, dominant players have been doing good SEO for years.
Get in touch with dofollow and let's chat more about how our transparent, contract-free, performance-based link building can help build you the backlink profile and SEO foundation to enjoy those natural backlinks over the long term.
Why Trust Us On SEO
Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.
Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.
While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.