Back in 2016, Google confirmed that content and link building is what put your website in the SERPs. And unless you're brand new to the digital marketing and SEO world, you're probably not surprised. Link building is often the most used form of SEO because, for the most part, it's the easiest. Create ways to link back to your website and BOOM, instant traffic, right? Not so fast. It takes time to build a link building strategy, and there are a few ways you can boost traffic to your website.
This is where “second-tier links” come into play. You've probably used these types of links without even knowing what they're called, but it’s important to realize what SEO tactics you’re using so you can get more advanced in the future. Below shows you the less talked about type of link that can be an asset to your strategy.
What are Tiered Links?
When you think of link building, you most likely don't think of tiered links, but there are first- and second-tier links that build traffic to your website. Sound like black hat SEO tactics? It can be if done incorrectly.
- First-tier links are web links that link directly back to your website, and they are easy to create. For example, you may write a blog post that has a link to your website. That would be a first-tier link, or more commonly known as an internal link.
- Second-tier links are a bit different—you're linking to content that has links to your website. An easy example would be sharing an email or social post that links to your guest post. That guest post would then link to your website. Make sense?
Of course, second-tier links go a bit deeper than social posts. For example, you can find an authoritative site to link to the website where your guest post is housed. This doesn’t mean linking to your website (that would be an external link), it just means getting one authoritative site to link to another authoritative site that isn’t you, but does link to you.
Why Second-Tier Links are Important
Traffic is great, but what does that have to do with SEO? While second-tier link building is great for traffic, it's also super helpful for SEO. Traffic is one of the features that Google uses to rank websites. Google looks at the traffic going to and from a website to determine whether or not it's worth ranking. The use of second-tier links also allows search engines to determine the following:
- Authority. It's not always what you know, it’s who you know. Writing a guest blog post for an authoritative site helps build your credibility, but getting an authoritative site just to link to you does the same thing (the true organic way to earn links and always the best).
- Relevance. Google loves relevance. Think about your keywords—they're related to your website information, right? The same should be of your links—it helps Google and other search engines understand what your website is about. When your website is linked with others in your industry, Google understands exactly where it belongs.
These factors come together to help with your SEO strategy. It shouldn't be the only focus, but it does help boost rankings. You can learn more about other factors that affect rankings here.
Black Hat vs. White Hat Tactics
Here's where things can turn from white hat to black hat quickly. If you're looking to build second-tier links, an easy way to do that would be to create a bunch of websites that link back to your website. But that's not a good look for your SEO strategy. Here are more effective (and legitimate) ways to secure second-tier links:
- Approach a quality, authoritative site and ask them if they'd like to link to your website content. Offer them an example. This isn’t overly affective and it is definitely a long term play, but it can work.
- Find a broken link in another website's content? Why not use this as an opportunity to ask them to replace that broken link with one of your own.
- Propose a guest post to another website, and then generate links to that guest post (potentially by more guest posting!). If other sites are sending traffic your way via your guest post, you've secured a second-tier link.
- Share your guest post on social media outlets. Chances are the site owner will also be sharing your post to boost traffic to their website.
- Find out who's linking to your website already. Use a site explorer tool, like Ahrefs, SEMRush, or Moz's Open Site Explorer, and find out who's linked to your website. Once you have this information, use it to your advantage and build links to those pages! Here's what you'll see if you use Open Site Explorer:
The Basics: Things to Remember about Second-Tier Links
As any true digital marketer knows, there's more than one focus you should have when it comes to your SEO strategy (hint: automation can help!). As with anything else, link building shouldn't be your only SEO trick. Remember that Google and other search engines are constantly changing—one tactic won't work forever. Some things to consider when you're utilizing second-tier links:
- Create quality content. Content is still king, and Google will certainly take notice if your content is garbage.
- Perfect your target site list. Just because a website is linked to your page, doesn't mean it's credible enough to link to. For example, if it's not in your niche or industry, why would you want it as a second-tier link?
- Quality over quantity. Don't use this as an opportunity to grab up any link you can. Just because a website is willing to post your guest blog or link back to your website, doesn't mean it's going to be helpful to your SEO strategy. Go after quality rather than quantity—it'll pay off in the long run. Learn more about earning traffic to your blog this way here.
Tiered link building doesn't have to be black hat—it is possible to use these types of links to boost traffic to your website. While it's not always the first tactic on every marketer's list, it's an effective one. Continuing to create quality content that's worthy of being linked to and from will set you up ahead of your competitors.
How to you earn second-tier links? Is this something you focus on, or let happen naturally? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.