Tiered Link Building: Everything You Need to Know in 2024

Tiered Link Building: Everything You Need to Know in 2024
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Backlinks to your website, by themselves, can only do so much. Even the most relevant, high-authority links have limited link juice.
But like all things in the world, links are stronger when they have some support. Wonder what that means?
Well, there’s a term you need to know about then: tiered link building.
It is a link-building technique that involves building backlinks for your backlinks. So, the end result is a network of links that directly and indirectly pass link juice to your main website.
Typically, you build three tiers of links, of which only the first tier points directly to your money site. The second tier links point to the first tier, the third tier links point to the second, and so on.
Think about it as a pyramid with your main website at the top, supported by further tiers underneath.
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Tier 1 backlinks link directly to your main website, impacting its ranking the most. Building them right is the most important part of tiered link building.
Only links that are do-follow and high in both relevance and authority belong to this tier. So, they will be fewer in number, and harder to come by.
Some good examples of tier 1 backlinks are:-
  • Backlinks from guest posts on high authority blogs (with contextual anchor text)
  • Editorial links on sites with high DA (Domain Authority)
  • Links from federal, state, and local government sites (with .gov in the domain)
  • Links from colleges, universities, and educational institutions (with .edu in the domain)
  • Citation links
  • Resource page links
  • High-quality Web 2.0 backlinks
Remember that if your tier 1 links are of bad quality, building links on further tiers wouldn't be of much use.
As the name suggests, tier 2 backlinks are the links you build on top of tier 1 backlinks. Their purpose is not to link directly to your main website but to lend extra link juice to the backlinks that do. So, they can be a mix of do-follow and no-follow links.
Still, to get the most out of this tier, skew your preference towards links that are the former. You can afford to lower link quality standards just a little for this tier, but try not to lower the bar too much.
Some good examples of tier 2 backlinks are:-
  • Decent quality Web 2.0 backlinks
  • Profile links
  • PR links
  • Backlinks from directories
  • Backlinks from social bookmarking sites (Twitter, Pinterest, Dribble, etc.)
  • Backlinks from social media
  • Backlinks from PBNs
When building this tier, try to strike a good balance between quality and quantity.
Tier 3 backlinks exist to increase the link juice of tier 2 backlinks.
Since they are two tiers removed from your main website, you can focus more on quantity than quality. Even links with the no-follow rel attribute are well-suited here.
Some good examples of tier 3 backlinks are:-
  • Links from blog comments
  • Low-quality links from article directories
  • Profile links
  • Forum links
  • Lower quality Web 2.0 links
  • PBN backlinks sold in bulk
If you want, you can skip building this tier altogether to avoid descending into black hat territory. In fact, it is better to do so than to use excessively spammy links.
If you’ve spent any time building links, you’d know that it’s far from easy. Irrespective of the tactic you use, you’re constantly juggling between several moving parts. Not to mention how you’re facing continuous rejection (or radio silence) even after exhaustive outreach.
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So, for the amount of backlinks you’re able to build, wouldn’t you want to get as much benefit as possible? Wouldn’t you want every link you acquire to have the most impact that it can? Tiered link building can be the secret sauce that makes it happen.
It does come with several warning signs, but also with equally enticing benefits. They are:-
Perfectly relevant links from authoritative websites are hard to come by. Campaigns aimed at building them take weeks, if not months to garner success.
However, moderate-quality links often lay dormant in your email inbox. Tiered link building gives you a way to put them to use since tier 2, tier 3, and so on backlinks needn't be of the highest quality.

2. It allows more avenues to build relationships

Say someone offers you a link from a DR 50 website that isn't a great fit to link directly to your website. Thanks to tiered link building, you can still use it to beef up a tier 1 link.
So, the freedom to use links of varying origin and quality lets you enter more partnerships. And every seasoned link builder knows that your network can never be wide enough.
If you let link building take its natural course, all kinds of backlinks come into being. Everything from no-follow profile links to highly contextual links from guest posts on high DR websites enters the mix.
That's what tiered link-building mimics. It gives rise to networks with a diversified and inclusive link profile.

4. It can have great long-term ROI

As mentioned above, tiered link-building results in diverse link profiles that search engines are unlikely to suspect. So, the links you build thus can withstand several algorithm changes.
Moreover, the ability to use links of variable quality to your advantage lets you be more strategic with your efforts.
Tiered link building isn’t an outright black-hat SEO tactic.
Google wouldn’t frown upon it as much as you bulk-buying links or using robots. Still, it is not as risk-free as, say, pitching a guest post on relevant, high-authority websites.
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When gone wrong, it can:-

1. Attract penalties from Google

Google views all links solely placed for manipulating search rankings as spam. So, the lines are a little blurry when it comes to separating ethical link-building practices from unethical ones.
Even common industry tactics like link exchanges are seen in a bad light by Google. But some practices where the search giant draws a hard line are bulk buying spammy links, setting up PBNs, and using link-building robots.
So, if you use any of these tactics in your tiered link-building strategy, a penalty may catch you off guard. This is alarming because the action Google takes can even be as drastic as de-indexing the page you had built tiered links for.

2. End up being a huge waste of time and money

There's a large margin for error when doing tiered link-building.
For instance, something as commonplace as a website user removing your tier-1 links can put months of effort down the drain. All the links you built in subsequent tiers will have no target to pass link juice to.
Moreover, if you don't choose the right websites to build links on, you could end up wasting tons of time and money.

3. Detract you from using tactics more suited to your business

Tiered link-building is a powerful tactic. When done right, it can generate a backlinks network that drastically improves SERP rankings for your main website.
However, it may not be the right fit for your business. You may just not have the resources or the experience to do it right. So, if you're just starting out, it makes way more sense to master simpler tactics like requesting niche edits and targeting branded mentions.
Well, now that you're well-informed on both the benefits and risks of tiered link-building, let's go over mistakes you can avoid. They are:-
Strong tier-1 links are the backbone of any well-oiled tiered link-building engine. If they aren't authoritative or relevant enough, building links for subsequent tiers would be like asking someone having a heart attack to drink water.

2. Putting all your eggs in one basket

Tiered link-building, when done at the cost of all other link-building tactics, can be a fool's errand. Like we mentioned above, it has a heavy margin for error and is pretty resource-intensive.
Tier 2 links don't pack as much authority as tier-1 links. So, you must compensate for a lack of quality by amping up the quantity. The same goes for tier-3 links and beyond. However, don't go overboard by crowding the third tier with garbage links.
As we've discussed in the risk linked with tiered link buildings, Google doesn't think fondly of automated link-building robots. So, using them is inviting your own peril. That rings even truer given how Google's algorithms are getting increasingly sharper at detecting spammy practices year after year.
Tiered link-building shouldn't be the starting point of your link-building journey. It requires a lot of strategic foresight, resources, and time. And like we've mentioned a couple times before, it isn't a risk-free tactic, to begin with.
Even the most sophisticated tiered link-building can't get crappy content to rank. So, before you go about building backlinks for your backlinks, make sure the content you're doing it for is deserving of the hard work.

Other White Hat Tactics You Can Try Out

If you're a by-the-book white hat SEO, you may want to stay away from tiered link building. But, that doesn't mean you can't use other advanced link-building tactics.
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Here are four that you can implement right away:-

1. Use niche edits

Don't want to create a new guest post for a backlink? No problem. Niche edits help you capitalize on content that's already ranking well. The idea is to suggest contextual edits for pre-existing content pieces, such that the edits contain your link. The key here is to suggest edits that add genuine value to your target content.
If your brand has been on the internet for a while, it will have unlinked mentions. Lucky for you because those are free links awaiting capture. Tools like Google Alerts and Mention can help you identify such opportunities. Beyond that, just do the right outreach and you'll easily win a backlink.
We've all come across infographics, original research, and online tools that people naturally want to link to. By choosing to create such resources, you can give your link-building engine a genuine boost.
HARO is a place where journalists and reporters are constantly looking for expert sources. If you or someone in your team can answer a query there, getting a link back for your contribution is an easy affair. However, HARO link building is worth doing only if you can actively monitor queries on the platform.

Or, Ditch All That Grunt Work, For Good

If you ever want to rank for keywords that send your revenue through the roof, you need backlinks. High-quality ones at that.
And, acquiring them, even if you have all the link-building wisdom in the world, is grunt work personified.
But no more. Smartlinks is the hammer the modern link-builder's been waiting for.
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Now, you can head to the world’s first (and best) zero-outreach link-building platform and find hundreds of relevant link opportunities in less than 5 minutes.
And the best part? It's a completely white-hat way of building backlinks at scale—one guaranteed not to rub Google the wrong way.
So, why not click here to take it for a spin, and enter the future of link-building, right now ;)

Written by

Angad Singh
Angad Singh

Content marketer at Smartlinks.ai and Smarttask.io