Although SEO is an old concept with a well-established methodology, experts are always trying to find new ways to improve search rankings. The latest approach comes in the form of modern AI tools and content generators, which have taken the industry by storm. As someone who’s been in the business for a minute, the MiroMind team is always excited about these innovations.

While tiered link building isn’t anything new, dating back to 2015 and beyond, it’s rarely mentioned among veterans. The reason is that this method carries major risks and is quite expensive on top of that. So, while the approach has its merits, you should think twice before adding it to your SEO strategies.

In this article, we’ll explain the concept, its benefits, and drawbacks. We’ll also explain what separates it from traditional outreach. Enjoy!

What is tiered link building?

As the name implies, a tiered link-building strategy implies building links in tiers. An SEO expert creates a network of backlinks, with the strongest page pointing to clients’ sites while all other linking pages serve as satellites.

The reasoning is that every linking page will support each other boosting the destination page’s authority. So, when you get a link from a reputable source, this tier-one web page will be further empowered by other links pointing to it.

In a way, tiered link building creates a trickling effect where you get benefits from all these joint pages. However, for the SEO strategy to make sense, the primary linking page needs to be strong enough. The tactic simply won’t work if you create a structure with a low-quality link as the first linking page.

Tiered link building also presumes links of different qualities and from different sources. While the first-tier link is extremely powerful, the ancillary links (second, third, and fourth tier) usually come from forums, directories, social media, and such. In other words, the approach presumes lots of nofollow links.

Tiered link building vs. traditional outreach

So, how does this approach differ from standard outreach?

  • Tiered link building takes significantly more time
  • Tiered link building presumes links from various types of sources
  • Tiered link building pays more but also carries certain risks

Due to its complexity, we can’t suggest this approach to everyone. It’s an SEO strategy that can be executed by a veteran marketing team but could be too risky for inexperienced link builders. Among others, as the number and type of links increase, you’re putting yourself at risk of Google penalties.

Tier links classification

Think of tier link building as creating a pyramid. The first link pointing to your site is the “biggest” one. Tier two links point to the tier one link and are weaker by comparison. Each tier-two link is supported by several tier-three links, which are even weaker.

Here’s what each category entails:

Tier 1 links

First-tier links come from high domain authority sites such as:

  • Entrepreneur
  • HubSpot
  • CNN
  • Huffington Post

These high-quality links are vital for your marketing, providing numerous direct and indirect SEO benefits. Besides transferring lots of link juice, they can also drive massive direct traffic. In fact, just getting one such backlink would be the highlight of your campaign.

Aside from these top-tier domains, you can also do a good job by procuring backlinks from relevant platforms. For example, if you’re in the construction business, you can gain an enormous boost from a medium-quality construction link. So, it’s not only about the website authority but also whether the link source page correlates to the destination page.

Getting first-tier links is the trickiest part of the process. If you ever did outreach campaigns, you know how many emails you need to send to get a single response. When it comes to large platforms, it’s virtually impossible to reach the site owners without an introduction. Getting relevant backlinks is even harder, as they come from competitors’ websites.

Despite the difficulties, there are a few ways to acquire these high-quality backlinks:

  • Look for guest post opportunities within your industry
  • Reaching out to reporters and news outlets is one of the best link-building tactics
  • Create partnerships and events prompting other participants to link out
  • Post roundups, interviews, and similar link-bait content on your site

Once you get the initial link, you’re ready to build lower-tiered links.

Tier 2 links

A second-tier link can come from various sources, including:

  • Article directories and review sites
  • Private Blog Networks (PBN)
  • Press releases
  • Weaker guest posts
  • Smaller personal blogs

Second-tiered backlinks are noticeably weaker than the first-tier. Still, they are a crucial part of this search engine optimization strategy. We use them to convey link equity to the primary links by strengthening the authority of the destination page. In practice, this should provide significant benefits resulting in higher search engine rankings.

While the second-tier backlinks aren’t as powerful as the first-tier links, they still need to have some authority. Most notably, they have to be stronger than third-tier links and below. Although slightly lacking in power, the second-tier links make up the quantity. In other words, you can have several pages pointing to your first-tier page.

Based on everything previously said, second-tier links are much easier to build. Even better, unlike the first-tier backlinks, they don’t have to be the focal point of your campaign. Instead, you can create them while focusing on other things. Here’s what we mean by that:

  • You can link to first-tier pages while writing guest posts for some other projects. This second-tier link doesn’t have to be as relevant as an average tier-one link
  • Directory link building is also straightforward and usually doesn’t require any investment
  • Similar can be said if you have a functional private blog network
  • You can also create various profiles on social media and other platforms where you would link to the first-tier link

If you have a well-established system, you shouldn’t have much trouble building these links. This is especially true if you have access to strong PBN or accounts on large review sites. Nevertheless, you need to make sure these backlinks are of solid quality, as it shouldn’t be a major drop-off between the two tiers.

During the link-building campaign, you need to make sure that the second-tier links are diverse enough. Using the same strategy over and over again can trigger search engine penalties. Ideally, you should have several recyclable channels in place, which you can reuse each time you get a tier-one link.

Tier 3 links

Here are some of the most common tier-three links:

  • Forum links
  • Links from blog comments
  • Social media links
  • Directory links
  • Profile links

Generally speaking, the tier three category is reserved for low-quality links. By themselves, they don’t have a major impact on the search engines but can still improve tier two page authority.

In fact, the interaction between these two categories resembles the one between tier one and tier two. There are significantly more third-tier backlinks within the structure than tier-two backlinks, and they’re exponentially weaker compared to their predecessors.

It’s also worth mentioning that tier three backlinks don’t actually transfer any link juice as they have a nofollow status. Still, Google and other search engines take them into account when assessing the power and relevance of linked tier two pages.

In other words, it would look unnatural to search engines if tier two pages didn’t have any tier three links pointing to them. There’s simply too much sharing and commenting online, making it virtually impossible for popular pages not to get any nofollow links.

Here are a few tricks that can help you out when creating backlinks for this category:

  • Social media links are the easiest ones to scale, as you can always slip them into longer Facebook or Twitter threads. Just make sure to avoid threads made by business entities, as they might delete your post
  • Creating profile and directory links is also straightforward and helps diversification. The only issue is that it will take a bit more time compared to social media posting. That is, you’ll need to spend some time creating and verifying new accounts
  • Comment and forum links are the hardest links to acquire from this category. In this particular scenario, a website owner needs to approve what you posted, which doesn’t always happen because of the included link

When it comes to third-tier links, speed is the name of the game, as you need to prioritize quantity over quality.

4 Benefits of tiered link building

Like all SEO tactics, this approach has its fair share of advantages and drawbacks:

1. Highly scalable

If we exclude primary backlinks, building tiered links is a highly scalable process. It doesn’t take many resources to create secondary and tertiary links, and with the right structure, it can become an automated process.

So, if you already have a traditional link-building strategy in place, it doesn’t take much to turn it into a tiered model. That way, you can get significantly better results from all quality links that point directly to your site.

2. Better diversification

As previously mentioned, Google has certain expectations when it comes to link profiles. Even if you get numerous quality backlinks, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have high web rankings. This is because the links you received look too unnatural.

Ideally, SEO experts should receive backlinks from various sources and of various qualities. While relevant links will always give you a better boost, you also need the ones that aren’t related to your industry. This indicates to Google that you’re running a legitimate business and that people are slowly starting to discover you.

3. Resilience to negative attacks

One of the toughest things for website owners is being a target of a negative link-building campaign. Black hat strategies can be devastating for smaller but also medium brands. Luckily, you can build some protection by having more links.

When a competitor starts building all these fishy links, they will have a lower impact if you already have numerous backlinks pointing to your site. While you’ll still need to remove them, they won’t be as impactful if you have a versatile profile featuring numerous backlinks.

4. Improved promotion

When doing link building, many website owners focus on the link juice they get from other sources. They often forget that all these backlinks can also provide direct traffic to their site. While second and third-tier backlinks won’t make you a household name, they can have a cumulative impact on the number of visitors you’re getting.

3 Drawbacks of tiered link building

Here are some of the potential problems you might encounter during your link-building campaigns:

1. Potential penalties

While tiered link building might increase protection against outside attacks, it might also get you into trouble. Specifically, you need to be very careful when implementing this strategy. Many link-building tactics go against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, so get thoroughly acquainted with the rules before launching a campaign.

The risks involved exponentially increase if you knowingly implement Black Hat tiered link building. Using a link scheme, such as automated backlinks, will come back to bite you. So, make sure that it’s worth it before you start the process.

2. Opportunity costs

Although tiered link building is cheap, it doesn’t mean it’s free. You still need to invest some time and resources to create PBNs and to create all these accounts and posts. Additionally, you might need to invest some money in guest posts along the line.

That being said, you might be better off pursuing other strategies. Besides changing your link-building approach, you might consider using that money for better content or some other promotional method.

3. Short-term focus

The biggest issue with tiered link building, and the reason why it’s not that popular, is because it often involves gray and black hat SEO. Even if you don’t receive any penalties, there’s a chance that new algorithmic updates will hit you like a truck. When that happens, you can lose all traffic overnight.

So, if your main focus is on long-term brand building, you will get better results with more traditional SEO tactics.

5 Best tools for tiered link building

You need to use several quality tools during these link-building campaigns. Not only will they help you monitor keyword rankings and an influx of low-quality backlinks, but they can also simplify certain processes. Here are the 5 best tools you can use for this process:

1. AhRefs

When it comes to link-building programs, it doesn’t get much better than AhRefs. The platform excels at detecting new links, but it also does a pretty good job of finding opportunities. Among others, many people use AhRefs to spy on their competition.

The tool gives you a clear breakdown of all the competitors’ links, data which you can use for your own campaigns. The trend feature helps you find relevant content that has received lots of traction in the last 30 days. You can analyze these pieces and use them as a blueprint for your content creation.

2. SEMRush

SEMRush is a comprehensive platform that can help you with various aspects of your marketing campaigns. However, in this article, we’ll focus on the company’s Backlink Gap tool.

The feature works by comparing your links to competitors. Then, it returns a breakdown of websites from which your competitors haven’t received links. You can use these gaps to find opportunities for your campaigns.

3. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a brilliant social media platform. It helps you analyze trends and publish and schedule posts across several accounts. The platform also has powerful analytics that shows you how people react to your posts.

You can use the program to quickly build tier-three backlinks. The users can publish social media posts with links from a single dashboard, which can significantly increase efficiency during tiered campaigns.

4. Easy Blog Networks

PBNs are the riskiest yet most profitable way of building second-tier links. Unfortunately, due to inherent risks, most people simply omit them from their strategies.

While you can’t completely eliminate these risks, you can reduce them. By subscribing to Easy Blog Networks, you can eliminate all footprints. The platform specializes in PBN hosting, providing various benefits such as a safe, natural hosting profile and SEO analytics.

5. Web CEO

Web CEO is another comprehensive platform similar to AhRefs and SEMRush. It has numerous nifty features, including rank and backlink checkers, site audits, partner link checkers, and a visitor activity tracker. While most of these can be useful for your link-building campaigns, we want to focus on the directory submission feature.

The platform can help you out with various types of directory submissions. It’s a process you can reuse several times over, helping build the authority of numerous pages on your site.

Whether you need tiered link building or other SEO services, contact MiroMind today!

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