Ever since search engines have existed, backlinks have been an elementary ranking factor. While in the beginning, the focus was mainly on the number of incoming links, today, the quality of links is increasingly in the spotlight. With a variety of complex algorithms and sophisticated anti-spam technologies, the search engine giant Google has been trying to optimize its offer step by step for years. But what makes a “good” link? Which criteria are decisive? And how do you get such backlinks?

Although networks for backlink exchanges and sales are becoming increasingly popular, you can usually only find backlink opportunities for your English sites on these platforms. When it comes to creating link-building strategies for your German websites, it can be a bit challenging.

In the article, we will introduce you to 6 link-building strategies that Google classifies as “clean” and that bring your German websites and content to the front.

Between relevance and semantics

Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird have permanently changed the web landscape. With continuous updates, Google has refined its search algorithm to the point of perfection. The main task of SEO and link building, however, is not to leverage or circumvent it as best as possible but to use it actively. Backlinks from relevant and trusted German sources, natural and varied anchor texts, semantic alternatives, as well as context – there are a variety of factors that make up the quality of a link.

The path to natural backlinks

Goal-oriented search engine optimization starts on one’s own page and can be made even more homogeneous through off-page optimization. However, any German link-building strategy can only be as good as the content to be linked. Consequently, the main focus is on the content, i.e., the “value” that the link should transport accordingly.

The demands on SEO have become increasingly complex over the years. Once promising approaches and methods can nowadays have the opposite effect and pulverize the ranking of a website. But there are still a number of effective strategies that focus on ethical search engine optimization – for natural backlinks and sustainable link building:

1. Backlink Analysis of Competitors

Only those who know their competitors can clearly define their own route. The greater their lead, the greater the potential to close this gap. With the right approach and the appropriate tools, search results offer a veritable treasure trove of potential backlinks for your own site.

Competitors who occupy the top positions in the search results are usually doing a lot right – especially in terms of SEO. Backlink analysis can decipher potential recipes for success and help lay a solid foundation for your own strategy. You yourself should be interested in having said websites link to you as well as your competitors. And if relevance and added value are given, this interest will probably be mutual.

Google searches with keywords that are fundamental for you and your industry provide information about the general market situation. Ideally, a handful of competitors will emerge whose backlink profile you can examine with professional and/or free tools. An orientation towards competitors offers a broader range and thus enables you to bring your own strategy close to the optimum.

So-called backlink checkers generate a considerable list of links within a manageable amount of time. Their subsequent analysis forms the actual basis for one’s own strategy. It is important to get an idea of what kind of links are involved and how you, too, can best land on the radar.

A backlink analysis not only provides revealing insights into the prevailing competition but also enables a rock-solid foundation for your own SEO strategy.

2. Infographics

Sometimes ridiculed and readily underestimated – infographics offer an incredibly effective way to generate backlinks and traffic. Not only is visual information easier to grasp and quicker to process, it also tends to encourage more sharing. Services like easel.ly, visual.ly, or piktochart.com allow for engaging results with manageable time and design efforts. Alternatively, freelancer platforms offer the possibility of obtaining professional infographics for relatively little money.

The focus should ideally be on topics that are not yet sufficiently covered. Furthermore, it is important to dose the information density and to rely on an intuitive layout and clear design. In terms of both content and appearance, the infographic should be appealing and trigger a reaction in the viewer.

In addition to publishing on your own website, a variety of channels can be used to increase the reach: Platforms such as Pinterest or proactive outreach can be used here to pique the interest of bloggers and webmasters. To add value to a potential link, the so-called “guestographic” method is recommended: a short guest article that embeds the infographic link in context and thus also enhances the infographic for Google.

3. Smart Guest Posting

“Stick a fork in it, and guest blogging is done” – with this bang, Google’s Matt Cutt ushered in the supposed end of guest articles in early 2014. What he meant by this was guest articles that have no added value but are just out to get a link. But smart guest articles with added value for readers are still a proven way to generate backlinks at the intersection of content marketing and SEO. But the benefits are far more complex. Guest articles can increase not only prestige and traffic but also strengthen the bond between bloggers. But how do you find potential niches for guest posts?

The first port of call here is also Google. To do this, enter the following into Google:

Your keyword + “guest article” or your keyword + “guest post”

But also via Twitter (“Your keyword” + guest article) or Followerwonk, contacts for such collaborations can be found. As is often the case, the focus should be on the added value of a possible guest post and communicated accordingly. Although you also have to be convincing, this primarily applies to the article itself.

4. Image Search

By the way, another way to convert visual content into links is the so-called reverse image search. This can be done relatively easily with Google on-board resources or tools like TinEye. The basic idea is to find blogs or websites that (unknowingly) use your photos or infographics. Provided they have been previously published without attribution and – more importantly – without a link, a friendly email to the respective webmaster can work wonders. It is advisable to first argue in a restrained manner and free of insinuations. This not only increases the likelihood of a response but will most likely lead to the desired result: a link to your site.

5. Google Alerts

For backlink acquisition, another Google tool can prove extremely useful: Google Alerts lets you set up an unlimited number of “alerts” to track mentions of specific words on the web. It’s an approach that’s primarily aimed at branding. Someone mentions your name or website online? Then you should understandably be interested in turning this mention into a link.

Various setting options allow almost tailor-made results, which can either be delivered via email or retrieved as an RSS feed. A friendly e-mail to the respective webmaster can ultimately ensure that your website is also linked. You can also track your “flagship articles” appropriately this way and possibly top off any mentions with a link.

6. Finding Dead Links (“broken link building”)

This strategy also follows the basic idea of optimizing existing web content in your favor. Although it is a relatively time-consuming approach, it also promises high chances of success.

Basically, it is about finding linked content whose source (at said location) no longer exists. “404” is the name given to these pages lost in data nirvana. A variety of so-called broken link checkers but also browser extensions such as the Google Chrome add-on Check My Links enable the detection of dead links and sometimes offer a pool of potential backlinks. This approach is particularly effective if you focus your search on extensive resources or link collections. Due to the constantly growing volume, the topicality of the listed information inevitably suffers at some point.

Link analysis also offers opportunities that may not seem obvious at first glance. Every dead link you find has potential – even if you don’t have a “direct replacement” on your site. Perhaps the find will provide inspiration for a new article. The Wayback Machine allows you to view a large part of the content that has disappeared in the meantime. But even if it doesn’t fit thematically – every webmaster will be grateful for a hint, which will undoubtedly increase the quality of his site. You are sure to get attention, and perhaps the communication will result in another link opportunity on the website, or a certain bond will be created.

Backlink analysis can additionally take the strategy to another level. If you find a dead link, there are probably other sites linking to the same source. Provided you have a potential replacement on your site, a number of possible backlinks present themselves in one fell swoop. As time-consuming as dead links can be to track down, the potential they hold is enormous.