Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. Successfully ranking high requires a lot of effort, strategy, and execution. Therefore, SEO is a sort of a puzzle that consists of numerous parts. Some parts are about optimizing your website’s design, content, and performance. Others are there to help the search engine perceive your website as a relevant and trusted source.
That leads us to link building. An SEO approach that helps websites grow their authority and, as a result, their ranking. Like any other optimization strategy, it too has various techniques that help businesses achieve better results over time.
One of them is tiered link building, which this article will address in more detail. The strategy includes building a pyramid of links from various sources that lead to the website you want to rank better.
What is link building in the first place?
Search engines such as Google and Bing consider numerous page metrics when ranking websites. There are several dozen metrics that you should monitor to stay on top of your website’s ranking. These include page load speed, backlinks, keyword ranking, organic traffic, conversion rates, mobile traffic, bounce rates, and many other SEO elements.
Link building is a strategy that companies deploy to remain at the top of the search results. The more links coming to your pages, the higher your website’s authority is.
It shows that your content is a valuable resource for other websites and they often refer to you. For example, you have a SaaS website that promotes your product. Creating a blog is a healthy step for driving more organic traffic to your business. As the number of blog posts keeps growing, people from the industry will likely start linking to your content.
The more links are coming to your various blog posts, the higher your ranking. However, keep in mind that your content needs to be informative, engaging, and inspiring.
Don’t only focus on quantity, but on quality too. If you want someone to link to your content, include statistics, valuable information and share your experiences from your industry.
While Google wants this to be a natural process, many businesses deploy various link-building strategies to get ahead of the competition. They are building links from multiple sources to improve their website’s authority. That’s where tiered link building comes in as a strategy that provides excellent results.
The good news is that it’s possible to track all this data with a handful of tools. For example, with a backlink monitoring tool like Linkody, or access to a backlinks API, you can easily keep track of your link-building efforts.
What is tiered link building?
Tiered link building is an approach that amplifies the effectiveness of a link-building strategy. The standard link-building process is getting 5 to 50 backlinks to your blog post, the home page, or any other page you want to promote.
However, with tiered link building, writing your blog post and linking to it from the other authoritative websites is the tip of the iceberg. These are first-tier links, and it’s then time to create second-tier links that lead to the first-tier.
Technically, you’re creating links that lead to your first-tier links with the goal of creating a link hierarchy. Then, the process repeats several times.
That way, when a crawler takes a look at the link hierarchy, it seems that your piece of content is at the top of the pyramid. That shows to the engine’s algorithm that your piece of content is a great resource. The search engine then keeps it at the top of the results page so more people can easily find it.
For example, the webpage you want to promote is your blog post. The process would put you through a couple of phases.
- Phase 1 — You need to find high domain authority sites for the first tier links.
- Phase 2 — Now it’s time to get content that links towards first-tier links. Create a list of lower domain authority websites and start creating content that links to your first tier links.
- Phase 3 — Finally, you should introduce tier-three links towards the tier two links. These are forum posts such as Quora answers and Reddit thread replies.
The cycle continues until you have hundreds of links in the pyramid, leading to the blog post you want to promote.
Let’s break down how many tiers you should create and where they link from.
How many tiers should you create?
It’s hard to say how many tiers of links you should create due to the increasing workload as you take each step down the pyramid. For instance, if you need 10 tier one links, you’ll need 50-100 more tier two links, quickly jumping to 500-700 for the third tier and reaching over 1,000 links in the tier four category.
Therefore, it all comes down to company efforts, as the whole process quickly becomes complicated and demanding.
The first tier of links leading to the page you want to rank well need to come from relevant websites with high authority. What does this mean? That includes pages such as Entrepreneur, Forbes, Inc, and other similar publications. They are the leading websites in terms of authority, and links coming from such places positively impact your website as a whole.
If you’re wondering about the number of links needed, they should be anywhere between 5 up to 50. These need to be naturally placed.
To get to these high numbers, you’ll need to create an outreach campaign and get in touch with editors on high-authority websites. Growing your network and communicating is the perfect way to expand the list of tier-one websites you can use in your strategy.
The second-tier links serve to boost the authority of your tier one content. These links usually come from lower authority website sources. Their role in the process is to drive the authority of your tier one links even higher.
You need around 5 tier two links per single tier one link. So in total, the number should range from roughly 25 to 250. It’s easy to see how quickly the numbers go up, making the tiered link-building process a demanding one. Things become even more complex with tier four links.
Tier three links are used massively and come from a broad range of online websites. They are posted on online forums, sites like Quora, and other user-generated content platforms. These links help with the indexing tier two links by leading to them.
As you’ve already guessed, the numbers of tier three links skyrocket to about 500. That is where things get tricky with tiered linking, given how quickly the link numbers go up.
Companies run marketing teams on a tight budget. So to achieve these results, companies deploy various automation tools to post a huge number of links. While it does help create links, it’s also punishable by search engines, something you’ll see more about in the following section.
Tier three links are not something everyone opts for. Their sole purpose is to help index the tier three links. These links go up to around 1000, making it practically necessary to use automation tools. Still, if you’re persistent, it’s possible to perform this process manually as well.
White hat vs black hat approaches
White hat and black hat are phrases you’ll often hear in the SEO world. They also appear when it comes to the tiered link-building process. Let’s break down the key differences to consider and analyze which approach would work best for your business.
White hat tiered link building
White hat tiered link building means that everything you do is performed manually. There are no automation tools used in the process. You get all the links by reaching out to blog editors. Marketing team members are the ones posting on user-generated content websites.
Why should you opt for the white hat approach? It’s the best long-term strategy to build your link profile. On top of that, you’re in complete control of where you want the links to come from. The white hat approaches also keep you safe from any penalties from search engines. The biggest tradeoff comes down to time. Tiered link building manually takes longer. You’ll need to set aside a budget for this process. As your team gets down to tier three or tier four links, they’ll have their hands full as they create hundreds of links.
If you’re looking to create multiple tiers of links with the highest quality, picking the white hat side is the best way to go.
Black hat tiered link building
The black hat approach has its benefits too. That’s why many businesses still opt for it to get the results they need. They do this because it’s an effective way to get links to their pages quickly. It employs automation, allowing smaller teams to get amazing results.
However, the risk of detection from search engines is incredibly high. Furthermore, the quality of links you’re getting is not in your control. In most cases, links are of low quality, but they still bring results.
Still, the scalability aspect is very appealing for many businesses, which makes them opt for this approach.
What are the benefits of tiered link building?
Tiered link build helps your website in several ways, helping it to rank higher. First off, a healthy backlink profile improves the ranking of your website in comparison to others. It puts your website on a map of trusted sources on the internet. As more external sources (websites) link to your page, the higher ranking it will have.
The whole ranking process occurs thanks to link juice, also known as link equity. That’s why multiple link tiers are used. Each tier has a certain link value that builds up to the page you want to rank higher. Once your website achieves a high ranking score, your website will receive more traffic. That means better results for your business in general.
Aside from having a healthy link profile, you’ll also be able to rank for particular long-tail keywords. Using different anchors with keywords in your linking strategy will show the search engine that your page is relevant for those keywords.
All this makes this approach so appealing. Successfully deploying the strategy leads to huge rewards, and businesses take all the necessary steps to achieve great results.
Are there any risks with tiered link building?
If done naturally, there are no risks with tiered link building. But there are a couple of pitfalls to consider. All you have to do is avoid them, and you’ll successfully build a powerful backlink profile.
The primary risk you might come across is the search engine penalty. The best way to avoid this problem is not to use any automation in your tiered link-building strategy. Search engines have become incredibly smart in the past couple of years. They quickly pick up automation patterns, which are nowadays easy to spot.
For example, can a human generate 100 new links towards a single page in one hour? The answer is obvious – no. However, that’s what an automation tool does. These types of behaviors are easy to notice and will result in a suspension of your website.
However, even though there’s a risk with automation tools, there’s a quick fix in case something goes wrong. Once you remove the tier one link leading to your primary page, all the harmful effects of tiered linking are removed.
Keep reading to see what good practices to follow to avoid being penalized.
What are the healthy approaches to minimize risks?
Luckily, if you take the proper steps, your tiered link-building strategy won’t create any risks for your website. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Although your focus is on getting links, you need to provide value to bring results. Don’t spin content that’s already out there, or even worse, blatantly copy it. It won’t get any results. Instead, focus on creating quality content for all tiers of your links.
Therefore, you’ll need content that gives new information to the readers. No matter the topic of your blog post, use relevant up-to-date information and provide value to those who read it. The quality of content reflects on the whole hierarchy of your tiered links.
You can expect outstanding results if all the content ranks highly and points to your primary page. On the other hand, if poor content links to your page, you can’t expect it to rank high.
Speed of getting links
Even if you’re not using automation tools, take your time acquiring links. There’s no need to go and spend the whole day spamming forums and other similar platforms to link back to your second or third-tier content. Take your time and slowly generate links.
That way, when a search engine is indexing everything, it won’t pick up any unusual activity. Following this approach significantly helps lower the chances of being penalized.
When creating your tiered link-building strategy, you have to pick the right websites to link from. Opt for websites with high page authority and feature genuine and informative content. That’s especially important for the first tier pages, which should be of the highest page authority.
The last thing you want is to opt for websites that serve only as a host to links leading to other websites. While it might sound like a good idea because it’s easy to get links from these websites, it might raise red flags with search engines, negatively impacting your ranking results.
Focus on other SEO practices
Link building shouldn’t be the only SEO optimization method you’re applying. It should only be a part of the whole SEO optimization effort. Therefore, follow other SEO concepts to get the best results. Use on-page optimization, user-friendly and mobile-friendly design.
A search engine might rank your pages high due to backlinks, but it won’t do so again if the users haven’t found what they were looking for. You need to ensure that your website is user-friendly and has helpful and informative content.
If a visitor from a search engine spends plenty of time on your website, it’s an indicator that it has served the correct result.
Doing something that someone else has applied might work for you. However, if you notice that your strategy isn’t bringing the best results, it might be time to try something new. Stay creative and explore different linking opportunities.
What does the future hold?
Will tiered linking remain a good strategy in the future? It most likely will. However, automation will probably disappear. Search engines receive multiple updates every year. The trend will continue in the future, making the engines much better at picking up automated link-building profiles.
Therefore, tiered link building will survive, but only in its organic form. Any use of automation tools will become obsolete. To avoid any penalties with future updates, it’s best to start naturally building your tiered link profile. So when a game-changing update hits, your website will keep ranking as before.
Tiered link building is a great way to drive your website’s authority. It’s an effective and long-term strategy to build a highly-rated website. Remember, though, while it will take more time and money, building links naturally is the best approach to pick.
It’ll keep your website safe from any penalties while still bringing excellent results. Take your time with the process and keep working on other SEO practices. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, as a single algorithm update might heavily impact your ranking.
Nick Chernets is the Founder and CEO of DataForSEO, the leading provider of marketing data. Just as much as he is passionate about data analysis and SEO — Nick also enjoys sharing his experience from the business side of the industry.