Link Building 101 for Solopreneurs (with Bonus Outreach Email Templates)

Andrea P   44

Your website is up and running and you’re publishing insightful posts on your blog regularly. You are proud of your articles because they show your expertise and they deliver value to your audience.

But there’s a problem. They’re just not ranking in Google!

You’ve tried everything — designed them beautifully with Thrive Architect, did your keyword research, added an attention grabbing title, etc...

… But something is missing.

What’s missing is the one thing that separates the big boys and girls from the rest on the content marketing crowd...

The pros are actively building links to their content.

The reason I know they are, is because I used to work for an agency who offered link building as a service.

That’s right, getting links is so important that people pay agencies to do this for them.

Now, I understand that this is not something you budgeted for, so that’s why in this post I’m going to show you:

  • 3 Link building strategies that will start working right away
  • How to find websites that might be interested in linking to you
  • How to reach out to those websites and earn their links (including copy/paste email scripts that work)

Sounds good? Alright then, let’s get started...


What is link building and why is it so important?

When you’re writing a post about Siamese cats and you link to a resource about how to potty train them, you’re telling the search engines that the resource you’re pointing to is valuable.

The same thing happens when you get a link from another website to yours. That other website is giving your site a vote of approval in the eyes of the search engines, which in turn helps boost your ranking in Google.

When ranking websites, Google takes a lot of factors into account. The exact composition and weight of all these factors is unknown, since they're part of Google’s “secret sauce”. Still, SEO experts invest a lot of time and effort to find out what these ranking factors might be.

After analyzing 1 million Google Search Results, Backlinko asserted that the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor (see, I am linking to this resource because it’s valuable for me, so Backlinko gets a vote of approval from me).

But backlinks can be earned naturally and/or artificially by websites.

Well-known and socially established websites tend to earn their backlinks naturally. This is what happened when I linked to Backlinko in the previous paragraph; I found their content useful and trustworthy, so I linked to them (gave them a natural backlink).

Similarly, Wikipedia gets a ton of backlinks as a trustworthy, widely known source, and that is one of the main reasons it ranks so well in the search engine results pages (or SERPs for short).

But, not all websites are as well-established and trusted as Wikipedia or Backlinko. Since natural links don’t come easy for less authoritative sites, they need to earn their links ‘artificially’, and this is where active link-building comes into the picture.

Link building is the action of acquiring hyperlinks (or just links for short) from other websites pointing at your own website. This is done by reaching out to website owners in the hope of a collaboration to earn a backlink from them.

3 Proven Link Building Strategies

1. Guest posting

What is Guest Posting?

Guest posting is a direct approach to link building, where you reach out to webmasters to offer guest contributions for their blog. If they accept your offer, you produce a high quality piece of content for them, and in exchange, they allow you to include a link back to your own website.

Simply put, that’s how you earn backlinks guest posting for other websites.

Wait… Isn’t Guest Posting Dead?

Matt Cutts, the former head of the web spam team at Google, expressed his distrust of guest posting solely for SEO purposes. He claimed that SEOs redundantly abused automated means of guest posting to the point where it got too spammy.

Since guest posting had lost its credibility, it was considered dead (a.k.a. no longer valuable in the eyes of Google). Later though, he added a correction to his rant where he explained that some forms of guest blogging are still legit:

There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.

So take note: spammy guest posting should be avoided.

Being associated with anyone publishing spam will hurt your search engine rankings instead of improving them. So, when an opportunity comes up, ask the following questions about any website you're guest posting for:

  • Does it have spammy good-for-nothing articles on it?
  • Is the traffic low?
  • Has it been penalized by search engines? (Look for sudden and consistent drops in web traffic… that's usually a good Google penalty indicator)

If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, pass.

But if you recognize it as an authoritative site with decent content and high traffic, go for it. If you do your best to publish quality content, and you partner up with sites sharing similar qualities, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Remember that in an internet overflowing with bad content, quality articles are always sought after.

Moreover, some webmasters don’t have their own editorial team, but use platforms like Upwork to get articles written, which costs them time and money. Therefore, a high quality and relevant guest posts will usually be more than welcome. It’s a win-win situation!

2. Link Inclusion

What is Link Inclusion?

Link inclusion is an indirect approach to link building, where you look for opportunities to get mentioned in an existing article on a quality website. You can do this by drawing bloggers’ attention to an issue or a missing piece of information on their website, and offer help to fix it.

Typically, you would try to get a link on pages like:

  • resources lists
  • comparison articles
  • reviews
  • ‘best of X’ articles

Why Link Inclusion Works

Articles usually become outdated after some time. 

If you manage to find an outdated piece of content or even a broken link on a website, it’s a good opportunity to reach out and ‘help fix the issue’. Partner sites also benefit from this technique, as you help the webmasters maintain and improve their website.

How to Go About Link Inclusion

Go ahead and look for ‘mistakes’ on prospective websites in your niche. 

To help you get the hang of where to look for opportunities, here’s some examples of what to watch out for:

  • Articles missing important information

  • Articles missing a product/service

  • Articles with broken links

  • Articles with outdated or missing data

  • Articles missing interesting facts that you’ve created resources for on your own website

3. Link ‘Stealing’

What is Link ‘Stealing’?

Don’t worry, this technique isn’t actually about stealing anything.

‘Link stealing’ is another link building technique, where you’re looking for blog posts that have a backlink to a certain article, and then acquire (a.k.a. ‘steal’) that backlink. You can do this by providing a better source of information to bloggers than the one they have originally linked to.

There are 3 steps to pulling off the link stealing technique:

  1. Find the best article in your niche with the highest number of backlinks.
  2. Create a piece of content that’s BETTER than the original
  3. Reach out to people who linked to the original article and ask them to replace the old link with a new link to your higher quality piece of content

However, know that this technique only works if you can really provide additional value over the original article.

In fact, here’s a few things you can do to outdo the original article you’re trying to replace:

  • More/longer: If the original article is a list of 20 items, providing an article with 50 or 100 items might add value. Check out 8 secrets that turn your list post from boring to amazing for inspiration on how to make good list posts.
  • Better organized/designed: Some articles just look ugly and are hard to read. If you notice this in the original piece of content, you have an opportunity to do better. And don’t just copy the content, but also provide some of your own original ideas to make the new post even more awesome.
  • Newer/Up to date: If the original article was based on old data, creating a piece of content around more recent and relevant data adds value.
  • New discovery: If there have been new discoveries about a topic since the original piece was published that’s not referenced, your can make a piece of content that does reference it to become the better backlink pick.

Why Link 'Stealing' Works

The content you create must be a better version of the one you’re trying to replace. And since there were several links pointing to the old post, you have a good chance to steal at least some of them.

Moreover, if the original content received a ton of backlinks, chances are that these were natural backlinks. By creating a similar, but better piece of content, you increase your chances in scoring those natural backlinks too!

How to Find Your Victims

Use Google to find the best and most shared articles in your niche. Insert your main keyword and pick the best one from the first couple of results.

You can also use a tool like Buzzsumo to find the most shared articles in your niche.

Pop the winner article into Ahrefs site explorer (a free backlink checker), and discover the pages linking to it.

Assuming that you chose an article ranked on the first page of Google, there should be a fair amount of backlinks pointing to it. This number depends on your industry, and gives you a good indication of how many backlinks your content needs in order to rank on that first page too.

The pages that are linking to the original article are the sites you will reach out to because they provide potential backlink opportunities for you as well!

Ahrefs backlink checker

Ahrefs free backlink checker: it shows you all the backlinks to any domain you search for.

Finding Prospects

The internet is full of potential backlink opportunities. So, how do you find them?

Check out some of these easy searches you can do to help yourself find blogs within your niche — without having to pay for pricey marketing tools.

First off, open an Incognito window in your browser to prevent search results from being biased towards your previous browsing data, then try the following searches:

Bloggers in Your Niche

You can start simple by searching for the bloggers in your industry. If you’re looking for fitness websites to target backlinks from, just type in “list of fitness bloggers” into Google and you’ll be on your way:

List of fitness bloggers for link building

Enter ‘list of fitness bloggers’ in the Google search box


If you put the “inurl:[word]” modifier in your search, Google will search for sites where that [word] is in the URL. By doing this, you can easily find specific types of articles. 

For example, you can type “fitness blogger inurl:resources” into a Google search to find fitness blogger resources pages, or “whey protein inurl:comparison” to find comparison pages of whey protein products:

inurl comparison search example

The inurl: search modifier finds specific words in the URLs

Depending on your niche, different types of inurl: searches might work better for you. Some ideas that you can try are:

  • inurl:resources
  • inurl:comparison
  • inurl:review
  • inurl:best
  • inurl:list
  • etc…


This Google search modifier lists pages that have a specified word in the title tag.

Sometimes the words we looked at in the previous inurl: section, are not actually present in the URL. That’s when this modifier comes in handy. In this search result you can see that only the title tag contains ‘review’, but the URL doesn’t.

intitle search example

The title tag contains 'review' but the URL doesn't

So, if you type “soy protein intitle:comparison”, you’ll get a list of posts about soy protein with the word ‘comparison’ is in the title:

soy protein intitle:comparison

The intitle: search modifier finds specific words in the title tag


The "keyword" search modifier will show you pages where an exact keyword is mentioned on the page.

You can combine this with the previous search modifiers I discussed too. For example: pull up “strength” intitle:comparison. This particular search will then list all the pull up-related comparison articles that include the word “strength”:

Keyword search modifier example

The "keyword" search modifier helps you find specific  words in the text body

After conducting these searches, you’ll end up with a ton of URLs which carry potential backlink opportunities.

In order to facilitate your outreach, you’ll also want to capture them in a structured way. The easiest way to do this is on a spreadsheet.

Create a spreadsheet with the columns you see in the example below and collect the URL, title, and niche data within them:

Link building spreadsheet example

Create a spreadsheet with URL, title, and niche

Are These Prospects Worth Your Time?

Quality over quantity — an old saying, but couldn’t be more relevant when it comes to link building. Backlinks from authoritative, relevant and trustworthy websites are what you want. It’s crucial to filter out low quality sites, because backlinks from these can be harmful.

So how do you determine whether or not a website is a good fit for you to pursue a backlink from?

Ask yourself the following questions for each of the prospective sites you’ve discovered so far:

Question 1: Is the site relevant?

None of the indicators we’ll cover in Questions 2 and 3 will matter if the page you’re targeting to get a backlink from is not relevant to your niche.

For example, if you run a website about new fitness trends, you’d welcome a backlink from sport, fitness, or diet related websites, but getting a backlink from, say, a construction-related blog might be more likely to harm you.

To help you increase your list of viable backlink sites, approach your niche from new angles.

For example, let’s say you wrote a fitness trend guide. There may be some great opportunities for you in unexpected areas like:

  • Family magazines — ways to keep fit as a mom
  • Lifestyle blogs — fitness trends for the new year
  • Beauty blog — the sexiest sports of 2019
  • ...

Question 2: Have they already accepted guest contributions?

When assessing a potential partner website for guest blogging, check for other guest contributions, or even guidelines about guest contributions. Sites that already have guest posts are more likely to accept yours.

A nifty Google search trick you can use to look for specific content within a single website is the command “site:URL”. So by typing “ guest contribution” in the search box, you’ll quickly find out whether or not there’s any text about guest contributions on a particular website.

Question 3: What’s their DA/PA?

Let’s quickly discuss a few important technical details about link building:

Domain Authority (DA)

DA is a metric Moz created to predict how well websites rank in the search engine page results (SERPs), on a 1-100 scale. The higher the DA, the better the chance a site has to rank well in the SERPs. This metric reflects the authority of the website as a whole.

Page Authority (PA)

This metric predicts how well an individual page ranks in the SERPs, on a 1-100 scale. The higher the PA, the better chance the page has to rank well in the SERPs.

PA is useful when you’re assessing an individual page — for example when you’re doing link inclusion or link stealing.

You can check what these two metrics are for sites and pages by installing the free MOZbar extension to your Chrome browser. Then you can simply click on the Mozbar icon and check these metrics whenever you visit a website.


The MozBar appears on the top of the page, and shows the PA & DA.

A bunch of free tools on the web enable you to check bulk DA’s and PA’s, such as this one or this one.

Go back to your list of the potential backlink opportunities, and copy/paste the URLs into one of these tools. Export the data into a sheet and sort the URLs based on DAs. The higher the DA, the better.

You can ditch blogs where the DA is lower than it is on your own site, or anything below 30ish (as a rule of thumb). However, if you think a site has the potential to grow, it’s smart to get the backlink from it now and then reap the rewards from that investment later.

So now, go back to your URL list, and fill in your spreadsheet with relevancy, PA, and DA metrics to see which sites are the best fit for you to pursue backlinks from:

Link building spreadsheet example

Fill in your spreadsheet with the prospective sites and their data

After this, collect the best contact email addresses possible from the sites you’re looking to establish a collaboration with. You can use, which will find you up to 100 connections/month for free, or any other tools recommended from this Ahrefs blog post.

So now that all your research is done, it’s time to do the hard work of actually reaching out to these websites...

I know it’s scary, but don’t worry, I’ve got some great tools and suggestions here to help you with that too! Onward...

How to Obtain a Partnership

After you complete your research phase and find some trustworthy sites with backlink potential, it’s time to reach out to their webmasters to inform them about your intention to collaborate.

When you reach out to a website blogger for a backlink, ensure that the collaboration will bring value to them as well. This value can be exposure on your social accounts, or even a referral link.

It’s a common approach, to offer a backlink for a backlink. Let’s say, you own website A and B, and you reach out to a blogger who runs website C, in the hope of getting a backlink from C to A. Inform them in your outreach email that you are working on a post on website B, so they can get a reference from there, if they are interested.

Note: link building requires an investment of your effort and time, but buying backlinks is against Google’s guidelines, and may result in penalties.

If you’re not sure how to go about all this, you can use these templates for inspiration:

Guest Post Outreach Email Template

When your outreach list of quality blogs you'd like to guest post on is ready, you can start the process by sending something similar to the following email template:

Hello [Name],

I am [introduce yourself]. I came across your post on [post title + link], and I really liked [highlight something specific].

I was wondering if you’d be interested in a marketing collaboration with me. I’d like to submit a well-researched post about [a relatable topic], as a guest contribution on your blog. You would benefit from it, as [reason why it’s a win for them].

Of course, if you are looking for something else, I am open to other ideas about how I can help you.

My blog is [add some fun facts about your site, like mission, traffic, etc.]

If you own another website (website B), you can also try the backlink for a backlink approach: In exchange for you time, I’d be thrilled to reference your website in a post I am currently working on for [website B].

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this potential collaboration. Either way, keep up the good work!


If you don’t get a reply immediately, don’t worry — send them one or two follow-up emails over the next few days. However, do not keep bugging the poor blogger forever!

After 2 or 3 attempts, assume that they are not interested. Send them a final parting email that leaves the gate open for a potential collaboration at some point down the road:

Hello [Name],

I hope you are well. I’m just reaching out one last time to see if you had a chance to consider my guest post offer.

In case this isn’t the right time for you, you’re always welcome to reach out to me in the future.

All the best,

If they do reply back to you at some point, you can negotiate what type of content they want, and then work out how to make it a win-win opportunity for the both of you.

Link Inclusion Outreach Email Template

Similar to our previous example, your link inclusion outreach email has to be personal. 

Something like this template:

Hello [Name]

I am [introduce yourself]. Recently, I’ve been looking for insightful articles about [topic] for [reason you're doing research]. I just read your article [title, url], and I found it super useful!

However, I noticed a [broken link / missing info / outdated source] in it. I published this post [title, link] recently, that covers that same information. I believe it would be a valuable addition to your article.

If you own another website (website B), you can also try the backlink for a backlink approach: In exchange for you time, I’d be thrilled to reference your website in a post I am currently working on for [website B].

What do you think?

Either way, thanks for the amazing post!


Again, send follow-up emails once or twice. If you don’t get a reply, say goodbye with a note that you’d still be looking forward to a future collaboration — just like I showed in the previous Guest Post outreach section.

'Link Stealing' Outreach Email Template

After your well designed, comprehensive and detailed backlink magnet is ready, you can start reaching out to those blogs that have links to other articles you want to 'steal'.

You can use this email template for inspiration:

Hello [Name],

I am [introduce yourself]. I just came across your post [title+link], and I must say, I really liked [highlight something specific].

I noticed that you used [original article] as a source at [a particular section of the article]. Because of that, I’d like to draw your attention to this article I wrote: [title, link].

This has more in-depth info on [topic] so I think it would be a better fit for your article. Would you consider adding this link to your post instead?

If you own another website (website B), you can also try the backlink for a backlink approach: In exchange for you time, I’d be thrilled to reference your website in a post I am currently working on for [website B].

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this collaboration.


If you don’t get a reply, send a follow up email once or twice, and then move on. More than likely, they will link to your article if it’s truly better than the original one.

Now It’s Your Turn to Build Links

If you’re ready to start bumping your placement in the Google search engine rankings, these link building strategies are there to help you get some extra backlinks besides the natural ones you’ve already earned.

I am not going to lie, link building is a lot of work. But as soon as you get the hang of it, it becomes a natural extension of your website management duties.

But now that we’ve covered how to get started, the rest is up to you!

What do you think about these link building techniques? Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments section below for me.

by Andrea P  January 29, 2019


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Leave a Comment

  • Thanks Andrea for this comprehensive guide.
    Guest blogging still works if you know how to choose sites for guest blogs wisely. A rule of a thumb is to avoid all those semi-automated blogging networks, otherwise, you can get in trouble pretty quickly. Focus more on publishing quality guest posts and attract quality traffic, the rankings will come also then.
    Keep up the good work. Now its time for me to start guest posting!!

  • The internet is always changing, sites come and go so often. I’ve gotten some really great valuable links by offering up a replacement for broken links. When I find one, I also do a search to find other places that linked to that same piece of content and offer them the replacement link, definitely makes a good use of time 🙂

  • Sometimes I feel that this stuff is a waste of time if you produce a lot of content.

    I have a lot of respect for Brian Dean and Neil Patel but I feel that as long as you already have an audience, you’d be much better served by simply cranking out tons of content instead of spending so much time optimizing things.

    There’s a small amount of optimization that should be done, but…. it becomes counterproductive.

    Shane would probably agree with me as he frequently talks about how “done is better than perfect” and releasing a product, even if it’s not perfect, is best.

    • Hi David, thanks for your comment!

      “Done is better than perfect” – I couldn’t agree more.

      I think it depends on a lot of factors whether you should deal with link building, e.g.: your niche, your current rankings, or what your competitors are doing. In my opinion, it’s advisable to build links, when, say, you’re stuck on page 2, or you’d like to make specific pages rank higher for certain terms, and you’ve done with on-site optimization.

  • Very thorough article! Link building is extremely important, however it is out of many people’s comfort zone, because it doesn’t have a high rate of success…

    • Hi Peter, yes indeed, link building is important and can boost rankings. Response rates might not be the highest, but it’s possible to improve it by thorough prospecting and personalized outreaches.

  • Wow! Thrive Themes never cease to amaze me. Not only do you provide great WP tools, but also magnificent information and tutorials full of value.

    Thank you so much for all the insights you provide, Andrea. I will make sure to check out all the tools and links included in the article.

    This is a lot of work, as you mention. And since you already worked at an SEO agency, I was wondering if, in addition to the tools you provide, you could also provide us with agency recommendations for a to z SEO services to do all the heavy lifting without breaking the bank.

    Best regards.

    • Hi Luis, this is great to hear!

      As for the agency recommendation… I have to say it depends on a lot of factors: your budget, your niche, the type of SEO you need, whether you want to hire an agency or a freelancer…

      But generally, try to find someone, who has some SEO experience in your niche – that will save some time. Perhaps ask your entrepreneurial friends if they have any good experience with an agency?

  • Really great article Andrea! You’ve covered so many good points on link building.

    In your opinion, how important would you say link building is to a website’s SEO? If you had to give a percentage, what would it be and why?

    Really looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

    • Hi Vincent, I am glad you liked it!

      Again, I have to say, it depends…:) Need to see how well-optimized and established the website is, and what the competitors are doing.

  • I like the way the template is written, highlighting potential points that can make the outreach receive a positive feedback.

    It’s a well thought out post and link building has lots of favourable strategies but personally I favor guest post more.

    Thanks for a wonderful post and it’s one of the best of its kind.

  • Nothing new but still a good read for me. Specifically this part – Are These Prospects Worth Your Time? We often collect the prospect and send the emails without checking if I get any benefit from this website or not. And templates would come handy for me. Really appreciate for this, Andrea. Thanks a lot.

    • Yeah, I think it’s better to filter those prospects out right at the start. That will save some time and energy for you.

  • Hey Andrea,

    Great explantion. Quick check.
    Why can’t Site A link to Site C and Site C link to Site A?
    Why do you need a Site B?

    Great post!!! Valuable till the last drop! Congrats!

    Looking forward to your PPC post 😉


    • Hi Marisa,

      Thanks for the nice words 🙂

      Excessive “A-C” linking will result in an unnatural backlink profile. It’s a red flag for Google.

  • This blog post has come exactly at the right time, the moment I started getting ready to up my outreach (which in itself sounds so weird) you go ahead and post this! Thanks Thrive Themes for continuing to add value! 🙂

  • Beginners’ question 🙂 If you write a guest post, how can you make sure they don’t publish your article without giving a backlink/true reference info? Or if I do the research you recommend that is very unlikely to happen?

    • It’s a valid question! I think you just need to take the risk in some cases.

      It happened to me a couple of times in the past… However, people usually kept what we agreed on in our emails.

  • Hello Andrea,

    This is such a Helpful and beautiful post.

    I couldn’t help but ask how you designed your sheet so beautifully?

    Did you use google sheets or excel?

    Or better still, is it possible we get it as a template?

    Thanks once again for the well-written post.

    • Hi Femi,
      It was just a quick example in Google Sheets, I usually just copy and paste data in there in the right column.

  • Thanks for sharing! It’s important information for beginner like me. This is rather difficult especially for people who had only started studied linkbuilding strategy. I’m believe I can))

  • It seems like common sense, but I actually never would’ve thought about “Link Inclusion”. Have you had much success using that method personally?

    • Link inclusion was one of my favorites 🙂 It doesn’t cost as much as guest posting, and it’s a fairly low effort technique.

      And yes, it worked for us… Let me share an example:

      One of our clients was in the wedding/fashion industry. It was easy to find link opportunities for them as fashion changes so quickly! We always found tons of ‘outdated’ articles from past seasons… We reached out to them, introduced our clients’ newest collections/designs, and some bloggers were thrilled to show it to their readers.

  • Thank you, Andrea! for this GREAT article full of actionable advice.
    My ignorance about how to go about getting backlinks had me frozen, unwilling to take action at all.
    Your article has given me so much advice, I am now excited about creating a Backlink Plan, and following through with the work, the action to obtain some valuable Backlinks.
    The hypertext links you included are great . . . lots of valuable information & tools for me to use in educating myself, and following through.
    I shall be seeking out any additional articles you have written.

  • Hello Andrea Papp,
    This indeed more than a definitive guide to link building. Oh my God, this article is enough to turn into a course and sell it.

    You really gave out a lot here. Honestly, link building is still very important as far as SEO is concerned in 2017 and beyond. Anyone who still neglecting is only making a grave mistake because, without it, there’s certainly no SEO (Maybe that’s my own opinion).

    I’ve read a lot of guides in the past about SEO, but this is the more comprehensive and I will start implementing the strategies right away as I’m currently trying to rank a new Amazon review site I started and I hope the strategies you share will work for me.

    Thanks a bunch for sharing.

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