One of the most frequent outreach campaigns marketers have to do is when SEO and backlinks come knocking.

How to get backlinks

Knowing how to get backlinks is crucial if the goal is to improve your rankings and drive more traffic.

After you read this article, I promise you two things will happen. First, you'll master backlinks at a level that will help you execute link building like crazy.

Secondly, you'll get complete access to 7 cold email templates we're using to build backlinks every single week.

We used this approach to create 40+ backlinks in the last three weeks and we're just getting started.

Here's a quick article overview:

1)  What are backlinks and why are they important. How different types of backlinks impact your SEO and where you should focus most.

2) How to find backlinks. Use Google, Social Media and Ahrefs to locate backlink opportunities. Plus, download our free Cheat Sheet to do this FAST.

3) Link building strategies and email templates. Steal our campaigns that scored 75% open rate and 25% reply rate overall.

4) Link building tips from SEO practitioners. Some good people agreed to give their $0.02 on link building.

Let's crack on.

A backlink is a link from another website to yours. You might have also heard about a few more variations such as an "inbound link" or "external link". It's all the same.

why are backlinks important

Why are backlinks important? Because each backlink you get is a positive signal to Google to consider that piece of content as credible and useful.

Think of it as other people putting in a good word for your name.

Down the road, each backlink you get helps you improve your rankings and drive more traffic to your website.

But to truly understand the dynamics of backlinks, you need to understand what types exist.

Allow me to break it down for you.

All my life, I've been a specific type of a nerd who's not that into reading the unnecessary stuff and get lost in theory.

It's boring.

Backlink classification is a bit boring when you think about it. That said, I'm gonna go through it as quickly as I can. Here are the basics about backlink types you ought to know.

The most important distinction to make is between nofollow and dofollow backlinks.

dofollow vs nofollow backlinks

The former will get you zero SEO juice. The latter is the backlink that counts. But, keep in mind the following:

  • To rank, a website needs both types of links
  • Nofollow links are easier to get and they still bring high-quality traffic
  • Dofollow links impact your Google rankings
  • Too many dofollow links from the same source will get you into trouble

First, let's define what are internal backlinks. Simply put, these are links from one page on your website to another.

Do internal backlinks affect ranking? They do and they are quite important as Google discovers new content thanks to their help.

Internal linking also assists in putting a hierarchical structure of a website, thus allowing the spread of link equity around websites.

Ahrefs put together a wonderful piece on the ABCs of internal linking. Just read it.

One of the most famous link building tactics to build high-quality backlinks is by doing guest posts.

Every website is looking to have good content. On top of that, not a lot of sites possess the resources needed to publish good content on regular basis.

That's where accepting guest posts comes into play. You write an article for a website for free and in return, you get the opportunity to place your link.

⚠️ MIND THE RULE: Before pitching your idea, think about their audience and write about a topic that's of interest to them. Fit your business in it. You won't believe how many pitches lemlist gets that are about email marketing. FYI, email marketing is not the same thing as email outreach. That's sloppy work. ;)

This is by far the best way to build backlinks. Earning a link in somebody's article. Typically done by finding relatable articles and using anchor texts in a smart way.

When you do link prospecting, you find out it's a pretty tough game. Who would have thought people are not that interested to give backlinks for free!? All jokes aside, one backlinking strategy that will speed up the process a bit is to pay for links.

My favorite kind, because it's a different outreach mentality. These people have nothing against being pitched as they are always looking to add quality content in their posts. The trick is to find the ones that are connected to topics you write about.

Instead of blogs, you can also get backlinks on various websites. A particularly interesting example would be a testimonial. The owner adds your testimonial to their website, writes your name below and links to the company you work at to show it's legit.

YouTube description. Shared posts on Facebook or LinkedIn. A linked story on Instagram from an influencer. Nofollow links, but still count for something.

There are many more places to leverage your backlink strategy. For example, does Quora give you backlinks? Not in SEO terms as these will be nofollow links, but it's still super useful if your audience spends time there.

Podcasts, various directories, commenting on blogs for backlinks, forums, Growth Hackers, Reddit etc. Most will be nofollows, but again, really important for you to be on there.

Not all gold comes in a d0follow backlink form. ;)

Finding backlink opportunities is not exactly an exciting task to do. It's always a good idea to outsource it to a prospector or give it to your internal asset.

You show them the moves (tell them to read this article :D) and let them bring this to the finish line for you. But, if you operate in a lean team and you gotta do this yourself, allow me to make it a bit easier for you.

Here are a few ways in which you can approach this tedious task.

  1. Using search engine operators
  2. Sign up to Ahrefs
  3. Leverage Social Media

Let's go one by one.

Google is a monster. If you know how to use it, it's insanely beneficial in an infinite number of ways.

When it comes to backlinks, there are specific query types that you can use.

For instance, if you type <YOUR KEYWORD> + "guest posts", Google will give you way more accurate results that you can add to your .csv file.

The good thing to do next is to use filters and list out most recent results.

Goes without saying you'll get freshly baked goods.

If you're a professional, you might wanna assess how authoritative and strong a website is.

Domain authority, now that's a good piece of information to have in your spreadsheet. My suggestion would be to use Ahrefs' Chrome extension. Super simple stuff!

With all that said, it can't go unnoticed that this process sucks, for one simple reason.

You already have too much going to invest hours to scrape all this information. Instead,  set aside a small amount of money and hire a VA to do this for you. Efficiency is key.

But, if you're to-do list does not look horrifying, then by all means, dig right in it.

I took this quick little Google Sheet from Webris, modified it a little bit and I'm now giving it to you to help you with search queries.

I took this quick little Google Sheet from Webris, modified it a little bit and I'm now giving it to you to help you with search queries.

Link building search operators

Use link building search operators

If you decide to add Ahrefs to your tool armory, you will fall in love with it. This is, after lemlist, my favorite tool in the whole world.

Not only have these guys made the a powerful backlink weapon you can have, but their tool offers so much more.

Here are the exact ways in which I like to use it to find backlink opportunities.

First, drop the wevsite link you wanna analyze in Ahrefs. Then, in the menu on the left, click on backlinks. Afterwards, choose the following filters:

  • One link per domain
  • Do-follow
  • Recent

You'll get something like this:

What's left for you to do is to export it, fill in the contact details and focus on outreach.

In my experience, the majority of these websites will have a contact email or form on their website, which you can access by opening these links straight from Ahrefs.

Another interesting use case here, especially if you're investigating into backlinks from your competitors.

Go to "Best by links" option under "Pages" in the menu on the left. You'll be provided with a list of best-performing pages and all the backlinks linking to it.

Click on dofollow or unfollow numbers and analyze EVERYTHING. ;)

Scrape the contact details and you're golden.

This is what I almost always do to find backlinks.

Using groups to biz dev your backlinking

There are hundreds of groups filled with content and SEO people. You just have to find them and start the conversation.

Words of caution though!

Being an admin of two communities allows me to put a few things in perspective. Waltzing into a group and launching a post to fulfill your needs is selfish.

Once upon a time, this was me too. But as I said, with an admin role I have today, it sucks when you see this. It's not time-consuming at all to go through the rules and understand the dynamics of a community.

Why?

Because sometimes, there's a thread where people biz dev or a process has been put in place on how things get posted. Plus, you really look like a jackass that nobody will like. 😫

Finally, a decent group for you to pledge to can be found anywhere. I'm talking Facebook, LinkedIn, Slack... infinite opportunities. My favorites for finding backlinks are:

  1. Scale Math SEO Community
  2. Game of Content Pod (🏴‍☠️)
  3. B2B Bloggers Boost Group

On top of that, it's not that hard to connect with members of any group on the planet and simply biz dev.

Rarely do I turn to Twitter, but in some scenarios, it comes super handy. The trick here is to type a query in the search bar, like "link roundups". Switch to latest tweets and let Twitter know you wanna see everyone's updates.

That's pretty much it.

We've finally reached this part of the article. Here we gonna talk about different strategies on how to get backlinks and I'll also share some cold email templates.

Some of the templates I've used in the past, others I've heard in passing while most of them I'm still using. Keep in mind I'm far from an SEO expert.

More like a practitioner on a mission to ramp up SEO results for lemlist.

Let's start from the top.

First, we need to develop the right mindset.

Our goal: Get a backlink in somebody's article (preferably a dofollow one)

Difficulty: Hard

Reason: They don't care

Strategies: Backlink Exchange, Broken Link Building, Unlinked Mentions, List My Tool

One categorical fact when getting these kinds of backlinks is that the level of difficulty to build them is quite high.

The main reason why? Because you are asking and thus you come from a position of weakness. The objective is to make someone do us a favor.

The only way to do this effectively, in my mind at least, is by exchanging favors. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

At this moment, I'm playing with three link building strategies: Classic Link Exchange, Broken Link Building and Unlinked Mentions.

Backlink Exchange Tactic + Email Template

My game comes down to trading favors. In most cases, I'm emailing generic website emails or forms on contact us pages. For this reason, my template was made to blend into the vibe.

I've also left inquiries to around 40 forms in this sprint.

Here's the link exchange email template I'm using:

Hey {{companyName}} team,

My name is Vuk, I’m the Head of Growth @lemlist.

I am reaching out because we’re looking to partner up with sites like yours.

We’re totally up for working together however you’re most comfortable, including:

- Do-follow backlink exchange
- Promotional exchanges (we share yours, you share us)
- Expertly written guest posts
- Publish your work on our blog
- Create a content piece together

For more information on us and just so you see we mean business, you can check our blog or join our community on Facebook.

If any of these interest you, please lemme know... we’d love to work together.

Stay golden,
{{signature}}

So far, this campaign got me a few decent backlinks. Here are the results from a 2.0 ongoing sprint.

Backlink Exchange Email Template

Broken Link Building Technique + Email Template

For this strategy, I have my doubts. Many SEOs say it works well, but I've always doubted it for some reason.

Nevertheless, decided to give it a go. I don't have any results yet, but will outline the plan.

  • find a certain page and run it through Check My Links to see broken links
  • alternatively, run a backlink report on Ahrefs to locate them
  • track down your piece of content that would fit in there instead
  • pitch

Broken link building strategy relies on you telling a website owner that there's a non-working link on their page. Not only will you make them aware of an SEO issue, but you'd also do the work for them by recommending a link that fits in instead.

It's assumed they'll be grateful for it and replace the broken link with yours. In other words, the difficulty and the prospect's mindset are a bit easier here.

Let's see how it goes, although doubts are still circling in my head. Here's the email template I'm planning to use.

Hi {{firstName}},

I was doing research that led me to your "{{Page}}" page, where I noticed a dead link. Specifically:

URL: {{Page URL}}
Anchor: {{Anchor}}
Dead URL: {{Dead URL}}

Fixing these things is far from an exciting task, but I assume you want this taken care of. If so, may I throw in a solid replacement link for consideration...

URL: {{My URL}}
Title: {{My Title}}
Guilty of this shameless pitch... :D

Wish you the best,
{{signature}}

Unlinked Mentions & List My Tool campaigns + Email Template

Depending on how strong your brand is, various people will inevitably mention you or your company from time to time.

The game plan is straightforward. As soon as you receive an update that somebody has mentioned your company, you reach out to them to turn it into a high-quality backlink.

How to know when somebody mentions your name? Check Mention or a similar tool.

Here's the email template I like to use:

Hi {{companyName}} team,

I wanted to reach out and say I'm super grateful about you mentioning lemlist in the {{Article Name}}.

As you know, we're hustling hard to grow our business and it would mean a world to us if you could add a link back to our site.

Thanks again for the shout out and wish you nothing but the best!

See you down the road,
{{signature}}

Another thing I like to play with is, what I call, a "List my tool" campaign. Basically, you segment out all the articles that list specific tools under different categories. You probably know how popular are posts such as "Best X tools for Y" or "Z tools every sales team needs".

I know it too friend... 👻

Have a spreadsheet with these contacts ready, scrape down their emails and send them your pitch. My advice is to have a blurb and a screenshot ready for them to include it asap, with your backlink and anchor text. This way, there's no heavy push on their end to make it happen.

You've done it for them.

Now, I didn't send a single email so far for this campaign. Instead, I've been connecting with people through LinkedIn and Facebook.

Here's the template.

Hi {{companyName}} team,

I've recently checked out your piece called "{{Topic}}". Just so you know I'm not BS-ing you, here's me checking it out and sending some 🤜🤛 from Station F in Paris.
empty pick is their article website screenshot generated dynamically with lemlist
I'd love to connect and biz dev. From one content creator to another, is there something that I can do for you?

As part of the trade, I'm looking for you to consider adding lemlist into the article and linking back to our site.

We’re totally up for working together however you’re most comfortable too, including:

1) Do-follow backlinks
2) Promotional exchanges (we share yours, you share us)
3) Write value-packed guest posts for you
4) Create a piece of content together

Lemme know if we can make something happen,
{{signature}}

Here are the results.

Link building email template

Guest post email template

Let's try to break this one down.

Our goal: Produce a good piece of content for another website & throw in a backlink (preferably a dofollow)

Difficulty: Medium

Reason: Everybody loves good and free content. The more authoritative the website, the harder the job.

Strategy: Guest Post Pitch

A vastly popular strategy to have and, at the same time, incredibly time-consuming. I generally feel that, in order for guest posting to work, you need to outsource half of this stuff.

The process consists of five phases, more or less.

1) Finding guest post opportunities (discussed earlier)

2) Set up a .csv file and gather emails/form inquiries

3) Send a pitch

4) Write the article

5) Make sure it gets published

That's one hell of a process to do on your own regularly. You need help, if you want to be fast that is.

Alternatively, you could put up some shortcuts in place. For example, break down your longer articles into micro ones and push them as guest posts. Or use similar articles from other content creators as inspiration and try to be as quick as you can.

However your process ends up looking, I'll at least help you out with the email template. I've been guest posting last winter, after which I hit the pause button. But now, I'm back at it with a fresh new pitch.

Hi {{companyName}} team,

I'm reaching out because I wanted to contribute in creating some 🔥 content for your website.

Already went through your guidelines and feel confident about the following topic.

YOUR PITCH

Let me know if you think there's something I'm missing here.

For credibility purposes, here are a few articles I wrote recently.

{{Article 1}}
{{Article 2}}

Speak soon,
{{signature}}

Generally speaking, not all websites need a pitch like this. Some will just ask you to send a draft when ready... especially the bigger ones. You'll know that by going through their guidelines.

Read them. Don't be lazy. If there's one thing good marketers hate, it's sloppy marketing work.

Again, it's about understanding the mindset.

Our goal: Get a backlink from their roundup (preferably a dofollow)

Difficulty: Easy

Reason: They're always looking for good content.

Strategy: Research & Pitch

This link building strategy requires light work tempo. The most important task is research.

Try to understand what the roundup and their audience are about. Aim to fit in your link naturally, if possible.

My template is a hybrid from other campaigns I'm sending.

Hello team,

I just stumbled on your {{Name}}. Pretty cool stuff in there!

Here's me checking it out for real and 👋to you from Station F in Paris.
empty pick is their roundup screenshot generated dynamically with lemlist

I wanted to reach out because I recently wrote a few articles that might be a good fit. Sending all 3 for consideration, but you do you of course:

How to get featured on podcasts
Cold email sequence for digital marketing
How to get more people to attend your event

Either way, keep up the awesome work! 🔥

Take care,
{{signature}}

To be entirely honest, I didn't send that many emails to roundups. The reason why, it's because it's taking me quite a bit of time to find the right roundups for what I need.

Link roundup email template

Although most of these will be unfollow backlinks, they are still gold. Remember, dofollows will help pass SEO juice to your website, but ultimately you're looking to drive conversions. Quality traffic will do that for you.

Whatever the word "conversion" means for your business, it's always a good idea to have whatever links in places where your audience spends time.

For example:

1) Get featured on a podcast

2) Have your tool reviewed by an influencer on YouTube

Building backlinks in the audio world + podcast email template

Our goal: Reach our audience, spread brand awareness and get a backlink along the way (preferably a dofollow)

Difficulty: Medium

Reason: They're always looking for good guests. The bigger the podcast, the harder it is to break through.

Strategy: Research & Pitch

I've already published a case study on how to get featured in podcasts. Just go there and you'll see everything, including the template.

I've also enjoyed some pretty good results with it.

podcast email template

Getting featured on a YouTube channel

Our goal: Reach our audience, spread brand awareness and get a backlink along the way.

Difficulty: Medium

Reason: Depending on your target, people are always looking for ideas to create powerful video content.

Strategy: Research & Pitch

Here's my pitch...

Hey {{firstName}},

My name is Vuk and I’m the Head of Growth @lemlist.

I am reaching out because we’re looking to collaborate with awesome YouTube channels like yours.
We’d be thrilled to have you review lemlist, a cold emailing tool unique in its ability to automate and personalize emails at scale.

That said, we're also up for working together however you’re most comfortable, including:

- Video interview with our CEO (Guillaume Moubeche) on a specific topic of interest to your audience
- Email outreach campaign designed for a specific purpose/audience you see fit

For more information on lemlist, please visit our blog or check our personalized cold email templates.

If any of these interest you, please lemme know... we’d love to work together.

Stay golden,
{{signature}}

Here are the results I'm experiencing with this campaign.

Youtube outreach email template
Forget the 110% open rate, analytics got messed up when one prospect was forwarding an email

⚠️ MIND THE RULE: Use these templates as inspiration. Don't just copy/paste. Tweak it a little bit here and there. ;)

Furthermore, especially if you are a fellow lemlister (if you're not, it's time for you to reconsider it), you might wonder whether or not I'm sending follow-ups.

If that's the case, I've written another article about follow-up emails that will answer this question in a more in-depth fasion.

The lesson I learned early on... the only way for people to link to you is if you got something worth linking to.

The same logic applies when you wanna go viral. You need to create something that's really, really good.

Now, as a content creator, I'm yet to create something that's gonna go on and make this kind of impact on the web.

But ultimately, what I've understood is, there are a few hacks to drive natural backlinks.

  • Bleed out of your eyes to write content that screams value
  • Spend an hour or two a week to skim through the news to see what's going viral (use tools like BuzzSumo and Ahrefs)
  • Develop a strategy around topics that are likely to drive shares and backlinks (like stats, lists, in-depth studies, exploring things popular entrepreneurs do, share your wins many people can relate to etc)
  • Once published, make sure to give your content initial organic kick to end up in many newsfeeds and newsletters (visibility is key because publishing awesome content and having zero visitors is no bueno)

How can you give your content initial traction when you don't have a strong following?

First, there are pods. Here's an example of me distributing lemlist content on Growth Hackers. I've used the above mentioned "Game of Content" community and my connections as well, to get upvotes and comments.

What happened next is that the article started to trend in relevant categories. That led to more people seeing the article, giving upvotes, leaving comments and driving traffic to our website.

After that, Growth Hackers pushed the article to their newsletter, which resulted in more traffic.

Is this a huge win?

Nope!

It's a small win in a long marathon I'm running.

Another example is LinkedIn. They're investing heavily in organic, so it's a pretty good idea to be distributing content there.

Here's a content distribution example from our CEO Guillaume.

1,054 comments + a lot of visibility for us. Remember, as soon as somebody likes your post, that notification ends up on more News Feeds inside of LinkedIn.

The more people read our article, the bigger the chance to get some juice, including natural backlinks... and more users of lemlist of course.

How did we generate 1,054 comments?

Although Guillaume's profile is pretty strong already, we've given it the initial kick via lempod to get immediate traction after posting it.

Then, more and more people started to comment organically.

1+1=2

Next stop for our team?

Backlink domination. Let's see how how we'll do.

As a summary and a cool way to finish this beast of the article, I'm leaving you with some SEO tips and tricks from other practitioners.

The question was - What's the one SEO advice/experience/mistake you'd like to share?

There's so much that goes into SEO. You have to have a process and a framework... to go about executing high-level SEO campaigns. You also need to know your data as it tells you a story that you need to understand.

Download Ryan Stewart's INSANE SEO report

In 2019, every SEO marketer wants to know how to get backlinks from authoritative websites. However, bloggers are swamped with the number of requests they receive daily, so it's important to put them first and provide value.

For example, you can find broken links on their websites that resonate with your target URL. In most cases, it gives great results as people want to return the favor.

Hugh Beaulac, Content Strategist & Link Builder at MC2 Bid4Papers


One of the things that I've learned the hard way (as I'm sure many others have) is that the amount of time spent prospecting – whether for link building or another type of outreach campaign – almost always (if not always) directly correlates to the success of any outreach campaign.

This often confuses people because link building is a "numbers game", that's something we've all heard.

But people also seem to forget that our time is limited, so it shouldn't be wasted by targeting the wrong people. You should instead focus all of your time on making sure that you're only reaching out to suitable link prospects that have the potential to yield positive results.

Alex Panagis | Founder & CEO at Scale Math


With link building, it truly is about building relationships and being genuine. Automation and using templates here and there is fine. But it will take some care, human input and a bit of sweat to get some amazing links.

One example was a link from a high tier site that gets millions of visits per month. The initial email was just a template, but once we got a foot in the door, we had to build the relationship and show some creativity.

So, between us, we decided to send an employee for a quick interview with the journalist. Once it was published, the article got over 5,000 Facebook shares, and several thousands of visitors in the space of a week. On top of that - the story then got picked up by UK tabloids like the Sun, the Mirror and the DailyStar.

But, the original site didn't link to us and I really wanted to get this link. Unfortunately, the journalist said it was a policy not to, and his editor wouldn't even allow it anyway. After asking around, nobody knew who I should contact and one very experienced agency owner said he only got a link because he knew the owner of the company. Now, most people would have written it off and left it.

I asked around 3 different people from the original publication. And on the third attempt, I got a nice friendly reply and a DOFOLLOW link. Note the polite, friendly and jokey nature of my request.

Amit Raj, The Links Guys at Amit Digital Marketing


The one SEO mistake I would like to share is chasing the next “big thing.” In the beginning when I was just learning about SEO and link building I kept reading every new article in hope that this will be the one thing that SEO is about and will solve all my problems.

What I found is that I needed to stop chasing the next big thing and hone my skills one specific portion of SEO. I joined a Facebook group and honed in a process for link building via manual email Outreach. Over time, I became incredibly good at earning links even scaling my guest posting campaigns to 60+ per month.

David Freudenberg, CEO at SEO with David

Wow, that was one loooooooooong article.

If you reached the end, allow me to express some gratitude. Really appreciate you! ❤️

Let's celebrate together, Djokovic style!!! 🏆

One more thing before you go.

In case you're wondering how did I personalize images in my cold emails?

Got one word for you.

lemlist ❤️

You can play with it for free before you decide to sign up. 🏌️‍♂️

Start your free trial