• Patrick Schober

6 Effective Backlink Strategies for 2021

Clients will occasionally come to me with an email they’ve received from a total stranger.

Usually, the email looks something like this:

Hi [Client Name],

My name is [Name], and I really enjoyed reading your article on [topic] at [URL].

I noticed in the article that you referenced [URL 2] while discussing [topic].

I wanted you to know that my team and I just finished writing an extremely comprehensive piece on [topic] and I wondered if you’d like to replace [URL 2] with our new article?

You can read it here: [URL to their article]

Warm regards,


If you’ve ever received something like this, it’s not a scam. Instead, it’s a strategy for getting backlinks.

If you’re unfamiliar, backlinks are simply links that point back to your website.

Google and other search engines track backlinks to determine how much trust and authority your website has on any given topic.

Backlinks are a critical part of SERP rankings, and the more backlinks your website has, the better its SEO.

That mock email I included above? The writer will often send dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of emails (if possible) to get as many websites to switch their links—all to improve their own rankings on Google.

That’s not the only way to go about it, however.

There are many strategies available to earn backlinks to improve your SEO.

Backlink Strategies to Use in 2021

Here are some strategies to consider today:

1. Find Brand Mentions Without Links.

These are instances where your brand or leadership team are mentioned in the news without linking back to your site.

Tools like the SEMRush Brand Monitoring Tool can help you pinpoint these instances, but you can also set up a Google Alert for your brand so you receive an update every time you’re mentioned in the news.

Take note: This can become a very manual strategy.

Once you find an article with an unlinked brand mention, you need to:

  1. Identify the author or site master

  2. Find a way to reach out (usually an email address)

  3. Message them with a request to embed your site link in their copy

It might sound tedious, but these efforts add up over time.

2. Check your memberships/associations.

Think of how many associations your company is involved in—both at a high level and through its sales team.

While your company may have a formal relationship with a local nonprofit, your salespeople may have connections inside the Chamber of Commerce or a local BNI chapter.

Regardless, if you’re involved with an association or a networking organization in any capacity, check their website to ensure your business is listed and that your company profile links back to your website.

3. Leverage press releases.

You have more press opportunities than you might think.

Sure, opening a new office or acquiring another business is cause for a formal press release, but you may not be giving yourself enough credit.

What about the latest donation you’ve made to the charity your company supports every year? What about the latest managing technique you’ve implemented? What about the record growth you saw during the pandemic?

Framed correctly, instances like these can be spun into press beats. The latest donation looks even more impactful when you consider how much you’ve contributed over the years and how many lives you’ve touched in the process. The new management technique might not seem like much, but what if you’re overall management approach has been instrumental to your massive growth in the last two years? Pounding your chest about record growth during the pandemic may seem selfish, but others may look at your business as an example of how to continue growing in the face of an economic crisis.

Bottom line: Journalists are looking for stories. If you give them something worth talking about, they’ll cover it.

4. Adopt the Skyscraper Technique.

The mock email I included at the top of this article is part of the Skyscraper Technique.

Originally developed by Brian Dean of Backlinko, the Skyscraper Technique is when you find a competitor’s article or page that has a ton of backlinks, then decide to compete against that article or page by creating even better content.

Once you publish your content, you promote—including to all of the writers who originally referenced your competitor’s article.

This might sound tedious, but it’s a powerful strategy for displacing your competitors on the SERP.

But be careful with your strategy. I have personally received requests for me to swap out my links—but to articles that had nothing to do with the content I wrote or the original link I cited! This makes the writer look foolish and, quite frankly, like a bad partner. Why would I want to help them (now or in the future) if they obviously didn’t even take the time to read my article?

5. Try Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

If you’re unfamiliar with HARO, think of it as a sort of marketplace that connects reporters with experts who can offer a quote.

Here’s how it works: You sign up for HARO and tell it what your areas of expertise are. Afterward, HARO sends you multiple email blasts every day with quote requests from journalists writing articles on your area of expertise.

What’s great about HARO is that it sends a steady stream of opportunities directly to your inbox every day.

Be warned, however, that HARO can quickly overwhelm your inbox (especially if you’re not very good at maintaining “Inbox Zero”).

6. Capitalize on broken links.

Over time, links break, leading to bad user experience.

As we know, bad user experience is picked up by Google, and any article with broken links will rank worse on the SERP.

You can “help” websites by informing them when a link to your competitor’s page is broken and offering them a link to a comparable page on your website.

Little by little, you can chip away at your competitors’ backlinks while building up your own.

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