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Tier 2 Link Building: How To Power Up Your Backlinks

Corey Batt

Are your backlinks not giving you the ranking benefit you hoped for?

Tier two link building gives your backlink profile a boost by making the links that point to your website more effective.

This article explains what tiered link building is, how it works, and what techniques you should use to build tier two backlinks. 

Tier 2 Link Building: How To Power Up Your Backlink Profile

What Are Tier 2 Links?

What Is Tiered Link Building?

How Does Tiered Link Building Work?

How to Build Tiered Backlinks

Example of Tiered Backlinks

Build Tiered Links with Authority Builders

What Are Tier 2 Links?

Second tier links point to web pages with backlinks to your site. In other words, they are backlinks for your backlinks. 

Let me explain:

Imagine a popular industry publication has linked to one of your blog posts on their website. 

That’s a normal backlink, sometimes called a tier 1 backlink. 

Now imagine another blogger links to the industry publication’s page with your link. 

This is what’s known as a second tier link. It does not point directly to your website, but you do get some ranking benefit from it. 

This is due to a concept called link equity.

What is link equity?

Link equity is the idea that when someone links to a page, it passes on some of their website’s authority. 

The higher the linking website’s authority, the more impact it will have on your search engine rankings. 

Some people call link equity “link juice.” This comparison to liquid is helpful in visualizing how link equity works:

  • The more link juice a website has, the more will be passed on to you when it links to you.
  • The more your page is filled with link juice, the higher up in the rankings it begins to move.

Second tier links pump link juice into the pages that link to you, which then flows into your website. The more of these secondary links you have, the higher your pages are likely to rank. 

What Is Tiered Link Building?

Tiered link building doesn’t just end with tier 2 links. You can also build tier 3 links that point to your secondary links. Some people even go as far as to build tier 4 backlinks. 

Tiered link building involves strategically building out these layers of links.

But why would you want to do this?

There are four main reasons:

1. Increased authority

The main reason backlinks are so important for ranking is that they indicate to Google that a page is valuable to and trusted by readers.  

Building tier 2 links tells Google that pages featuring your tier 1 links are valuable, which means your content must be even more authoritative. 

By building links in layers, you develop a robust backlink profile. Google is likely to see your site as more authoritative and therefore, it is more likely to rank your content higher. 

2. Natural backlink profile

Building links in an attempt to manipulate Google’s search rankings is against its Search Essentials guidelines. Its algorithm is good at spotting unnatural linking patterns that may indicate manipulative activity. 

It’s normal for websites to have a mixture of tier 1, 2, and 3 links of varying quality and from various sources. 

In other words, tiered links look natural to Google and it’s more likely to rank websites with this kind of backlink structure higher. 

3. Index new pages quicker

Search engines can’t show every webpage on the internet to their users. They can only show those in their index—this is a database of websites that the search engine has explored and analyzed.

Search engines find and index new content by following links. The more backlinks pointing to your site from different sources, the more likely it is that search engines will find and index your new content.

4. More organic traffic

The main purpose of backlinks isn’t to help you rank on search engines—it’s to provide value to readers by directing them to useful information. Therefore, some users will visit your website by clicking your tier 2 and tier 1 links. 

How Does Tiered Link Building Work?

The lower the backlink tier, the less impact links have on your search engine rankings. In other words, tier 3 links aren’t as powerful as second tier links, and second tier links aren’t as powerful as those in tier one.

This means that you need to build more links the further down the tiers you go. Tiered link building tends to be structured like a pyramid:

In fact, we usually recommend building ten times the number of links for each new tier. 

A typical tiered link structure might have:

  • 15 first tier links
  • 150 second tier links
  • 1,500 third tier links

That’s a lot of backlinks!

The good news is that the links you build at tiers two and three don’t need to be as high quality as the tier 1 links. That’s because they don’t point directly at your website, so there is less risk that Google will see them as spammy.

💡 What are spammy links?

Spammy backlinks are those that exist only to manipulate Google’s search algorithm. 

They offer no value to readers and are often placed on poor-quality websites that make money by selling high quantities of backlinks to unscrupulous link builders.

Google will usually ignore these backlinks, which means they are a waste of your money. But if you have too many of them, then it could lower your rankings or even de-index your website. 

We recommend that even though you can build lower-quality links at tiers 2 and 3, you should still avoid building spammy backlinks.  

We’ll explain what links you should build at different tiers later in this article. 

When to build tier two backlinks

Tier 2 and 3 backlinks occur naturally. People find your valuable content and link to it, and in turn, people find the article that links to your content and they link to that. 

But of course, this takes time. Therefore, building tier 2 links immediately after you’ve built tier 1 links sends a clear signal to Google that you are trying to manipulate its search results. 

Before you start building second tier links to your website, it’s worth asking if the time is right. 

Your website should:

  • Be at least a year old.
  • Have a decent amount of traffic.
  • Have a large number of primary backlinks.

Those last two points depend on what industry you work in. But around 20,000 monthly visitors and 50–150 backlinks is a rough estimate. 

Think about the age of your website and what looks natural—older sites are more likely to have tier two links.

Where to focus your tiered link-building strategy

Backlinks from high-authority websites tend to naturally draw second and third tier links. This is because they are trusted, get lots of traffic, and have strong, recognized brands. 

This isn’t so much the case with medium-authority websites. That’s why they are often a good choice to target with a tiered link-building strategy.

How can you tell whether a website is high or medium authority?

Google’s algorithm assigns a site authority score to websites. It uses this score to help it decide which websites to rank higher in its search result pages.

SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush give each website an authority score from 0-100. Each tool has its own name for this. Moz calls it domain authority (DA), while Ahrefs calls it domain rating (DR).

These scores attempt to reflect Google’s algorithm. They are based on a number of factors—chiefly, the number and quality of the backlinks and linking domains pointing to the website.

💡 High authority websites tend to score 70+

💡 Medium authority websites tend to score 30-69

💡 Low authority websites score below 30

Another place to focus your tiered link-building strategy is when a linking page is on a high-authority website but has low page authority. 

Page authority is essentially the same as a domain’s authority score, except that it applies to individual pages. 

A low page authority score usually happens if a search engine decides the page is not authoritative enough. The main factor behind this, once again, is the number of backlinks pointing to the page. Therefore, building tier 2 links to the page can help give it a boost.

How to Build Tiered Backlinks

But as mentioned earlier in the article, the further removed from your website a link is, the lower the quality can be. 

Here’s an overview of the kinds of links you should build at each level:

Tier one backlinks

Tier one should be reserved for your best backlinks. It will take a lot of time and resources to build just one of these but they will have a powerful impact on your rankings. 

Usually, tier one backlinks:

✔️ Are built with sites that are relevant to your site and content

✔️ Are built with high-authority websites

✔️ Are editorial—in other words, placed naturally within the page’s content 

✔️ Offer a lot of value to readers

✔️ Are relevant to the surrounding text

✔️ Have anchor text that matches the surrounding text

✔️ Are dofollow 

⚓ What does it mean to have anchor text that matches the surrounding text?

Anchor text is the text that includes the hyperlink to your website. Search engines value backlinks with anchor text that helps the reader understand exactly where the link will take them.

For example, a backlink with anchor text that simply says “to find out more, click here” tells readers little about what information clicking the link will give them. “To find out more, you should enrol in our digital marketing course” is a better approach. 


💡 What are dofollow links?

Dofollow and nofollow are HTML tags that indicate whether a backlink will pass on link equity. Backlinks with a nofollow tag will not pass on any link equity. High-quality backlinks are almost always dofollow.

However, it is worth noting that nofollow links may still have some ranking value.

Good tier one link-building strategies include:

✔️ High-quality guest posts

✔️ Linkable assets

✔️ Digital PR

✔️ Links from media platforms like Connectively or Qwoted

✔️ Broken link building

✔️ Skyscraper technique

Tier two backlinks

Second tier backlinks are similar to tier one backlinks but can be built with lower authority websites. These sites tend to have less stringent requirements, so building these backlinks often takes less effort. 

They should still offer value to readers, but your content doesn’t have to be as comprehensive as it would be at tier one. 

Good techniques to build second tier links include:

✔️ Medium quality guest posts

✔️ Links from media platforms like Connectively or Qwoted

✔️ Broken link building

✔️ Link insertions

Tier three backlinks

At this tier, quantity matters more than quality. You can use link-building techniques that you would normally avoid. 

Examples include:

✔️ Low DR blogs

✔️ Social media backlinks

✔️ Forums

✔️ Press releases

✔️ Other websites you own

✔️ Directory links

✔️ Comments

Warning: Do not use black-hat techniques 🎩 

Although quantity is more important than quality at tier three, you should still avoid using black-hat link-building techniques. 

These are link-building methods that seek to manipulate Google’s search engine results pages and offer absolutely no value to users. 

Examples include:

🎩 Keyword stuffing

🎩 Hidden text

🎩 Link farms

🎩 PBNs

🎩 Buying links from irrelevant or dodgy websites like online gambling sites

You wouldn’t use these link-building techniques to build tier one backlinks, so you shouldn’t do it at tiers two and three, either. 

Doing so could result in Google penalizing your site by lowering its ranking.

Example of Tiered Backlinks

Now that you know what tiered link building is, let’s look at an example.

It’s important to note that we don’t know whether these tiered links were built or whether they happened naturally. However, they are good examples of how the quality of the linking domain and content can be lower the further down the link tiers you go.

The target page

Here’s a great example of a clickable asset campaign from analytics software provider Databox. The company has carried out original research on email marketing frequency. 

Tier one

This research is so valuable that it’s got a backlink from HubSpot, in an email open rates stats page. HubSpot is a DR 93 website, so that’s an awesome tier one link.

Tier two

The Hubspot article is linked to by Criminally Prolific, an SEO business. The content is still good and relevant, but its website’s DR is lower than HubSpot’s at 61.

Tier three

In turn, Criminally Prolific gets a backlink from this website. It seems to be some sort of third-party blogging platform with an article written by software deal finder AppSumo. It’s got a DR of 1.8 and the link to Criminally Prolific is nofollow.

Build Tiered Links with Authority Builders

Tiered link building is a great way to boost your existing backlinks.

However, it’s time-consuming, and targeting tier two and three backlinks may take your focus away from building more valuable tier one links. 

Before building tiered backlinks, we recommend consulting with link-building experts like Authority Builders

We’ll audit your backlink profile and propose the best strategy to help you rank higher on search engines. 

If this involves building tiered links, then we can do the hard work for you. Our teams of experienced link builders, writers, and outreach specialists can generate second and third tier links at scale, allowing you to focus on your overall SEO strategy.

Schedule a call to learn how our link-building services can help you.


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