One of the most well-discussed strategies to improve the SEO (search engine optimisation) of your website is link building. There’s nothing new about it – we all know what to do. We want to increase those links to our content while linking it to useful, high-quality content on other websites and improve our link profile.
But that’s not the whole story. Once you have built quality backlinks, optimised images and ensures your content is a great quality that users love, the job isn’t quite finished. There are other strategies to try and one of them is known as second tier link building.
What is second tier link building?
Most of the time when discussing link building, we are talking about what is known as first tier link building. A first tier link is your basic backlink – it connects another website to yours or vice versa. It is a powerful and important part of improving your SEO profile and is an essential way to get Google to view your content as credible, high quality and worthwhile of user attention.
A tier one backlink graphic is a simple one – there’s your website and there are three other quality sites connecting to your site. But the second tier link building scenario is a little more complex.
Second tier in action
The definition of second tier is that rather than linking directly from an external piece of content to your website, a second tier link goes ‘from any website to a piece of content that links to your website’. Clear as mud, right?
The concept of second tier link building is actually tied up closely with another fundamental of blogging – guest blogging. The idea is that you write a blog post for a publication that is relevant in the same niche as your own website. Within that article, there’s a backlink to your website – maybe within the content itself or in the form of a bio at the bottom of the piece. This is one of the points of guest blogging, getting the first tier backlink to your site from another credibility authority.
Once the piece is published, you then share it with all of your social media sites – you have now embarked second tier linking, without even thinking about it. So let’s say you have that guest post and in the bio, there’s a link to your website. The user follows the link to your site and sees that it is indeed the same person who wrote the post (this is your first tier link).
But your blogging friend who is in the same niche then shares your guest blog on their social media site. Users click on their social media post to the guest blog and then on to the website (this is a second tier link). And social media isn’t the only example of a second tier link as it can happen when any online source links to your guest post.
So that’s an idea of what they are. Now the question becomes why would you want to use them?
Why should you use them?
The instant answer to the question is simple – second tier links increase your rankings. But it is about more than just hitting that top spot on search results pages.
For starters, second tier links are brilliant for generating traffic to your website. The whole point of guest blogging is to increase the awareness of you or your business and to bring people to your website from the post. You want to showcase what you do or establish yourself as an authority in your field, so you guest blog on relevant niche websites.
And those links in the bio or in the article are also crucial for sending those new readers to your website where they can read more of your great content.
Hopefully, they sign up for your email address, maybe even buy a product or service. They are now aware of you or your company and this might not have happened without the guest blog post.
The top challenge for all websites is to get traffic, particularly the right traffic that is interesting in what we have to offer. And that’s where second-tier linking can be perfect. This is because most of the additional promotion will come from two main places – email lists and social media. It also means that those links will be scattered around the internet.
That means if someone Googles you, they might find the post, or they might see a social media share from someone they already trust who liked the article. Even if the guest post uses a no-follow link that doesn’t benefit you in a traditional backlink way, those second tier links that are created can still help increase your SEO profile.
If the site that you were featured on has a higher domain authority than yours, you will often find that their post will come up in search results before your own on the same topic. It is easy to find out about the domain authority of a site. The original creator of DA is MOZ and their Moz bar is a free extension that allows you to check the DA of any site.
If the site has a higher DA, it might be worth guest blogging for them even if they don’t allow follow links for the second tier linking potential. Many bloggers have noticed a clear increase in traffic when they guest blog on higher DA sites and this makes it a great content marketing strategy for any business too.
The simple fact is that the more links out there that come to your website, the better. Second tier links add another level of these links and therefore help more people find your website. They are a way to increase your own site’s domain authority by being linked to other, higher DA sites in your industry.
This is because you and the high domain authority website are telling Google that you are friends. Google gets the message and understands it. So even second tier links can help establish this relationship and increase your DA because you are connected to a trustworthy, higher DA website.
More quality links (of any tier) = more traffic from Google.
How to build second tier links
Now we know what second tier links are and why we would want to create them, let’s dive into some of the practical stuff – how do you create them?
The first thing you want to know before starting with new second tier links is how many existing ones do you have. MOZ can help with this as well. Type the URL of the guest blog that you wrote and hit search. You will see some information but the bit we want to concentrate on is the ‘root domains’ count. You can view this as 23 open door opportunities across the internet for people to click a link to your website – which can make a lot of traffic.
Second tier links and social media
Without a doubt, the easiest way to generate second tier links is with social media. Not only do you want to share your guest blogs across your sites, you want to encourage others to do the same. And because the link isn’t for your site, it can often feel less invasive and you find more people are willing to do it. Hopefully, people will then click that link, read the post and click the link to your website because they enjoyed the content and want to read more great stuff you have written.
This not only generates traffic but increases your domain authority, which in turn increases your rankings and generates traffic. Two benefits for one.
That said, there is a bit of strategy involved. Key to success is sharing at the right times on different sites to maximise the potential impact. Current ideas about best time say:
- Facebook – best: Thursday and Friday at 1 pm; worst: Monday and Tuesday evenings
- Twitter – best: Thursday at noon; worst: most of Saturday daytime
- Instagram – best: Monday through Friday at 2 am or 5 pm; worst: weekends
- LinkedIn – best: Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday at 5 pm; worst: weekends
So when you are sharing that guest post or asking others to do so, try to aim for these best times. Of course, this is all relative to your time zone and different industries notice differences. Don’t be afraid to do some experimenting and see what works best for your readership – remember you can share a post more than once!
Second tier links and public relations
Having created a quality article for a high domain website, there are lots of other websites out there that will be up for sharing the link to this article if you approach them. This is another great opportunity for second tier links and starts with a simple Google search.
Look for either the topic you wrote about or the industry you are in. So for this article, we could search ‘SEO tips’ or ‘link building tips’. This will give you a selection of websites who are publishing content on the same topic and might be interested in what you have published. Examples of this might be websites like Forbes or Entrepreneur.
Then a simple approach. Something along the lines of that you read their post on (related topic) and particularly liked the idea about (something mentioned in the article). Ask them if they have a moment to check out your guest post because their readers might also find it interesting.
If they do and they share it to their social media following, you get a great quality second tier link to your website via the guest post. You can do this as many times as you want, just make sure you personalise it for each website you approach as there’s nothing worse than an irrelevant, copy and paste approach.
You can even consider making something like an infographic to go with the post and ask them to share this. It will connect back to the guest post and then to your website. And with sites like Pinterest, infographics are very popular, so this has an added benefit for the site sharing the content.
Guest post linking
Another part of the SEO benefits of second-tier linking involves linking from your website to the guest post. This might not seem a good idea at first – after all, people on your website already know who you are, and do you really want to send them somewhere else?
And from the viewpoint of traffic, no you don’t. You want them to stay and move around your website, consuming more of your content and building that brand recognition with them. But there are other benefits that make it worthwhile considering.
For example, the more traffic a post gets, the more it ranks for that topic. This, in turn, will send more new users to your website. If Google ranks your guest post highly, it will show it to more people in those search results. And not only does your backlink become more valuable but the number of people potentially seeing it and following it will increase.
You don’t need the link to be anything too complicated. There’s a good chance that you have content on your website that is on the same or similar topics to your guest post. Then all you need to do is add a link to your existing content to your guest post. It is the same principle as linking to other content on your website for good internal linking approaches. You can even be direct and say something like – ‘here’s another post I wrote on X topic for X that you might want to check out’
This helps to increase the authority of the website that you wrote the post for which in turns helps send more quality backlink juice to your website as people see it. And with that increase will come traffic. For the sake of less than a minute to update a post with a link, the benefits mean it is a worthwhile task.
Guest blogging and guest blogging
The approach to guest blogging is one you can keep doing. There’s no limit to the benefits you get from guest blogging and the second tier links that you can receive from those high-quality posts. That means that guest blogging for multiple sites should be a strong part of your content process.
Don’t just guest blog for anyone just to have a link to your website. Guest for sites that are in your niche and ideally have a higher DA than yours. Make sure you have a link to your website, a follow one is ideal, and that the website you are guesting for shares the content to social media. You then do the same.
Now it does take time to create great quality content, to reach out to websites and organise those guest blogging opportunities. You might want to consider bringing in a content writer to handle the writing or a VA to handle the outreach. These do cost but might help to get the job done if you don’t have enough time to handle it yourself.
And don’t feel you have to publish something every day – five posts on your blog and another two on guest blogs. Even one guest blog a month is a good start and will help you begin to see the benefits of second-tier linking. You might write one or two a month and have them link to each other, building second tier linking and getting traffic to your website.
Consider what you are writing too – you don’t want to compete directly with your own content. So go for related topics rather than the same one to help you rank for both your own content and your guest posts. You want to increase your website’s SEO, not decrease it by outranking yourself with a guest post!
Linking strategies do take time – they rarely result in an instant overnight boost to traffic. But by putting in the work, you will see an increase in traffic to your site and all the associated benefits.
Everyone is talking about first tier links at the moment. Building backlinks have become almost a profession for some people – getting those important, high-quality links from bigger websites that boosts your own profile.
And this is why second-tier linking can be so effective – not everyone is focused on it. It makes the most of the links already created and helps to boost your SEO. Share your guest posts on social media, approach other sites and ask them to share and keep going with the guest blogging. Over time, you will see an increase in traffic to your website and a growth in your own domain authority.
While first tier links are still the big focus, second tier links are easy to add to the mix and can make a big difference to your website – plus, they can be really easy to achieve once you have done the work of getting the guest post in the first place!
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.