How and When to Use a Tier 2 Link Building Strategy

One of the most underappreciated tactics in a link builder’s tool kit
Published on 
April 30, 2024
Updated on 
April 30, 2024
Posted in 

Tier 2 link building, because tier 2 links are usually easier and cheaper to get, can really help add some serious link juice to your backlink profile.

In this article, we will delve into what, exactly, tier 2 backlinks are, why they are appealing, how to get them, and how you can use them to add some serious value to your backlink profile. 

Summary: Tier 2 backlinks are those that point to links that point to your website (i.e., there is a degree of separation). They are a great, cost-effective way to increase domain authority, and newer websites are more likely to reap the benefits of tier 2 link building than older ones.

All in all, backlinks from websites with medium DR/DA (between 20 and 50) tend to confer the most link juice and ranking increase from Tier 2 link building. 

What, exactly, is tier 2 link building?

In a nutshell, tier 2 backlinks are those that point to a page that points to your domain, whereas first tier links are those that point directly to your site. 

The idea underpinning tier 2 link building is that by improving the backlink profile and page authority of the pages that point to your website, you are making the links in your own backlink profile more authoritative. 

The more authority your site has, the greater the odds of receiving improved rankings and traffic from Google. 

In order to fully grasp how tier 2 links function, it’s worthwhile to quickly touch on the concept of link juice or link equity. 

What is link juice/equity?

High authority backlinks pass on link juice (or link equity) in the form of trust, relevance and credibility. 

The more high authority backlinks a page has pointing to it, the greater the total link equity, and the more authoritative that page is as a whole. Since links are one of the most important Google ranking factors, the more link juice you can pass on to a page, the higher its ability to rank. 

Helping others to help yourself

The essential concept behind tier 2 link building is that you help yourself when you help strengthen the page and domain-level authority of others. It is in your best interests to have the pages link to your website be as powerful as they can. 

Any additional link equity they get from having more powerful backlink profiles then gets passed on to you. 

What’s more, because secondary link building is an indirect method of building backlinks (i.e., there’s that degree of separation between you and the referring domain), you minimize the odds that you will be penalized by Google for building unnatural links. 

In the world of link building, that penalty is always a risk, even if you’re building links to what, for all intents and purposes, are high authority, relevant sites. Google calls the shots. 

A tier 2 link building strategy enables you to go for more backlinks while thinking less about quality. 

Of course, you never want to build spammy links

While tier 2 backlinks don’t require as much caution when it comes to where you place backlinks, you should still stay clear of any techniques that Google regularly penalizes or frowns upon. 

Social media mentions, forum links and press release links are all fine for secondary link building and they are a good practice to get into any time you are featured in a publication. 

Where can you build tier 2 backlinks?

In the below sections we will go further into the kinds of link building strategies you can use to place great tier 2 links. 

We are definitely not advocates of black hat link building like link farms and PBNs (Private Blog Networks), but there can still be risks associated with even some of the “clean” tier 2 link building approaches, so keep that in mind. 

We’ve touched on some of those in the below paragraphs so that you leave with a full understanding of all of the ways you can build tier 2 links, but you should carefully consider the pros and cons of each one before employing them yourself. 

Using your other websites

A lot of site owners have more than one website. Either they’ve been building and running sites for a long time and have accumulated a bit of a portfolio, or they deliberately have a sister site that hosts related content. 

Either way, you can use your other websites to help with tiered link building and pass on more link equity. 

The catch is that the other website must be high quality and relevant. You can’t use your fishing blog to try and boost the page authority of your HR software business. 

If the quality and relevancy are there, however, what you can do are things like placing a guest post on website A that links to website B. There is nothing spammy or nefarious about promoting your own work. 

Keep in mind that it’s important to be judicious with this type of tiered link building or search engines might view it as a link scheme

Directory links

Directory links are another viable tiered link building strategy, and while they can be considered spammy links if you don’t know what you’re doing, targeting relevant, high-quality directory sites can land you some great backlinks that Google approves of and rewards. 

There are generally 3 different ways to tell if you should or shouldn’t try for a link on a given directory. 

Check Google’s indexing

It’s always a good practice to check and make sure that Google has actually indexed the site. 

Google will usually refuse to index URLs that it thinks are low quality and doesn’t want to show people. 

You can check the indexing status by going to the Google search bar and entering the directory’s domain in quotations. 

For, it would look like this: 

If the directory is indexed, Google has, at the very least, deemed it to be worthy of showing to people using the search engine. 

Look at the important domain metrics

If you have a tool like Ahrefs, you can type the URL into the site explorer and look at the domain rating, traffic and backlink profile of a given directory. 

If it has a high domain rating, get solid traffic from good geolocations and has a respectable backlink profile, odds are it’s a safe place to build tiered links. 

Look at the directory’s hosting guidelines

You want to target sites that have some sort of editorial process that determines who is allowed to create a profile. 

Good directories have submissions guidelines that keep spammy sites and ones in niches that Google doens’t look favorably on–crypto, cannabis, gambling, pornography, etc.--from placing links there. 

Social bookmark backlinks

These are another viable option for tiered links. 

Social bookmarking websites are those that help people interact with others in their niche or industry. 

They are a good part of a tiered link building SEO strategy, but bear in mind that most of these sites only offer nofollow backlinks. 

You are likely not going to get much (or any) of a ranking boat from these kinds of tiered links, but Google does consider nofollow backlinks a legitimate part of a good backlink profile. 

Press release links

If you find that a website/page that has linked to you is quite interesting and could add a lot of value for other people in your niche or industry, you can always let the media know. 

For instance, let’s say you are quoted in an article that lays out some interesting data about your business or industry. Odds are, the entire industry is going to be interested in having a look at the article. 

By driving traffic to that article–and potentially more backlinks–you are increasing the amount of link juice that the referring domain is passing on to your content. 

Guest posting

Guest posts are more commonly used to acquire first tier links, but you can also get some great second tier backlinks using this strategy. 

Most websites worth their salt will have guest posting guidelines that restrict the number of links back to your website you can include. But that doesn’t mean you can’t include links to pages that have linked to you (or even third tier links–pages that link to the pages linking to you).

This is a great way to squeeze extra link equity out of your articles. 

What’s more, the referring domains that have already linked to you will very likely satisfy the relevance requirements that a lot of websites have when it comes to their guest posting guidelines. 

Where you have to be careful is with respect to authority. Part of good external linking (the outbound links that point away from your site to other websites) is that they should take readers to domains and pages that are authoritative and trustworthy. 

In this regard, you need to be careful about tiered link building while guest posting because if you include low quality links in your article, the site may end up refusing to publish it. 

Social media as a tiered link building strategy

Whenever you are linked to by a website that is worth mentioning and showing your followers, you can always share the link on social media. 

While social media links are default nofollow, you are sending traffic to that article and, potentially, showcasing it as resource for anyone in your niche who might be interested in using it as an external link. 

Ultimately, you could end up driving traffic to your tier 1 links and bolstering the link equity. 

Link exchanges

Link exchanges occur when two sites agree to link to one another in order to improve each other’s backlink profiles. 

Google doesn’t mind a few relevant (operative word!) link exchanges, because it makes sense that sites in the same niche are going to want to link to one another. But they should only ever be a very small percentage of your overall backlink profile. 

That said, the best way to use link exchanges for second tier links is to do it indirectly. 

That means you don’t link to the same page that is linking to you. With second tier links, this is even easier to comply with because you won’t be linking to the same site. 

Forum links

It is very difficult to get tier 1 forum links because most forums have strict guidelines when it comes to placing URLs and self-promotion. Either the moderators or other forum members will get on your case eventually. 

For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that any tiered links you build on forums are extremely helpful and relevant. 

Second tier backlinks can more easily meet forum link building guidelines because the self-promotion is indirect and because you can be more selective about usefulness. 

How to know when it makes sense to build second tier links?

It doesn’t always make sense to invest time in second tier link building. Here are a few considerations to make before you start using this particular SEO strategy. 

What is your site’s age?

Older sites with solid backlink profiles probably already have a lot of organically acquired second tier links. 

If you’re a newer site with much fewer links (around 100), it can make sense to pursue a second tiered link building strategy. 

What quality are your current links?

If you have a large number of high quality links from super high DR/DA sites, then you probably don’t need to build many second tier links. 

Links from lower DR/DA site (20-50) could benefit from some second tier link building. 

Searching for tiered link building opportunities 

It can be tough to decide which pages would benefit from second tier link building. 

Here is a good way to map them out. 

Start by first building 100 tier one backlinks. At that point, you should have accumulated enough of a variety of links with different DR/DA scores. 

Next, shortlist those links that fall between the 20 and 50 DR/DA range. This is not foolproof, but it’s, more or less, the right range. Sites that fall within this range have a high enough DA that they will rank, but it’s also easy to get backlinks from them. 

Typically, this is because they have fewer or lower editorial standards and their administrative fees for placing links are lower (i.e., more cost effective). 

You can use Ahrefs to find candidates by entering your website into the site explorer and filtering by “backlinks,” making note of any backlinks that meet your requirements. 

Next, click on each link and ensure that they aren’t linking to your competition–otherwise you are passing on more link equity to them as well. 

Avoid diluting your link juice

It’s a good idea to limit your tier two link building to pages that don’t have a ton of outbound links because link juice is distributed across links. 

In summation

If you’re a newer site that has already accumulated a good number of backlinks, tier 2 link building can be a great way to boost your ranking, DA/DR and organic traffic. 

Tiered link building is usually much more cost-effective than first tier links, not to mention less effort. 

For any and all of your link building needs, get in touch with dofollow and let’s chat about how our contract-free, performance-based link building can help take your ranking, organic traffic and conversions to the next level.

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.

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