In this article, I am going to show you how you can double your backlinks opportunities using tiered link building and grow your website even faster!

Tiered link building will help you maximize your link building potential and get more backlinks from your current link building strategy to increase your website ranking, get more link juice, increase brand awareness, and grow your backlink profile faster.

However, it can also be risky, so it’s important to stop using outdated tiered link building techniques and start learning new ways of doing tiered link building effectively. One way to enhance your strategy is by incorporating reliable link building tools into your process, which I am going to show you here.

What is Tiered Link Building?

what is tiered link building

Tiered link building is a process of building backlinks from a variety of sources to your website (t1), to web pages where you have built backlinks (t2), and to web pages where you built backlinks for web pages with backlinks to your website (t3). Basically, you keep building backlinks for your backlinks and keep stacking them up to maximize the link juice coming to your website while minimizing the risk of Google penalty.

What is Tier 1 Link?

tiered link building tier 1 backlinks

Tier 1 links in tier link building are backlinks built only on authoritative and trusted sites by Google and they are the highest quality backlinks you can build for your website using relatively safe link building strategies such as:

These links need to be of the safest and highest quality and the reason why is because if something goes wrong, your website will go down.

Therefore, you want to build only the best possible links you can in terms of backlink quality. It’s also important to ensure those backlinks are coming from related sites to your website. You don’t want to build backlinks from a gardening site if you are in SEO.

That’s why tier 1 links are the hardest links to build, take a lot of your time, resources and money. However, they almost have the biggest positive influence on your ranking.

But tier 1 links can happen naturally as well, as you build your content, optimize it for SEO and start ranking for keywords, you will naturally attract backlinks. So not every tier 1 link will be built, that’s why not every tier 1 link will be high quality.

Only the one that you built should be of the highest quality.

For example, here you can see a backlink profile for my article with 17 backlinks and 11 referring domains none that I built, all came naturally.

example of backlink profile from tier 1 link building

So, when I click on the “Backlinks” I see all the tier 1 links pointing to my website. All these are the tier 1 links as they are pointing to my website.

Obviously, some of them are low quality as I did not build these.

tier 1 backlinks to my website example

What is Tier 2 Link?

Tier 2 links in tier link building mean building backlinks for the high-quality and trusted sites on which you have built backlinks to your website. Basically, you build backlinks for pages that link to your website.

Now, it used to be that you would build lower quality backlinks for your tier 1 backlinks as you would want to build at least twice that many backlinks. This would include link building strategies such as:

  • PBN backlinks
  • Better web. 2.0 backlinks
  • Directory links
  • Profile links
  • Distribution press release links
  • Social media backlinks.
  • Article directories
  • Niche edits

Or any other type of lower quality backlinks that you can build at scale or cheaper.

They also happen naturally as well, if you have built backlinks on good sites, they will try to build backlinks to your guest posts as well to increase their website traffic.

That’s why when you are doing guest posting you want to optimize it the same way as you would do for your website so your guest posts can rank, drive organic traffic, and naturally attract backlinks as well.

With that, to give you an example of tier 2 backlinks. Here is a web page that is linking to my website. This is my tier 1 backlink.

tier one backlink example from a website tier link building

And here is the backlink profile of this web page that is linking to my website.

tier 2 backlinks example for tier link building

So, all these backlinks and referring domains are considered tier 2 links and some of the are of excellent quality. Now I did not build any of these links and I don’t think they built all these as well, maybe just a few, but the rest again happen naturally.

tier two backlinks example for tiered link building

What is Tier 3 Link?

Tier 3 links are backlinks that are built to your tier 2 backlinks in order to further improve link equity that is in the entire ecosystem of the tier link building and ultimately boost your website presence.

Now, because these links are far away from your website, it used to be that you would build the cheapest, low-quality backlinks for your tier 2 backlinks. Here you would apply automation to generate as many links as possible. Tier 3 link building would include link building strategies such as:

  • Blog comments
  • Forum links
  • All types of directory links
  • Profile links
  • Mass PBN submission
  • All types of web 2.0 links

Basically, anything that you can do fast, cheap, and easily. Here there are no limits.

For example, tier 3 backlinks are built by those Fiverr guys that build you 1,000 backlinks for $5. Yes, these would be the type of backlinks you would build as tier 3 backlinks. Like dirt cheap backlinks, the lowest quality, it should be a shame for an SEO to even think of such backlinks.

example of tier 3 link building services on fiverr for tier link building

If it fits these criteria, then it’s a perfect tier 3 backlink.

These links often have minimum impact on your website SEO, therefore the investment should be minimal. However because of the Google algorithm updates such as:

  • Penguin updates
  • Hummingbird update
  • PayDay Loan update
  • Panda updates
  • Phantom update

And other Google updates to fight link spam made these strategies ineffective and potentially dangerous even to your website as Google is getting better at detecting spammy links and their contributors.

Therefore, later on, I will show you exactly how to do tiered link building effectively!

SEO Benefits of Tiered Link Building

Tiered link building used to be very popular for its potential to help website owners. However, as the search algorithm improves it became less effective to follow the old ways of doing tiered link building in order to bring any promising results.

Needless to say, tiered link building is still happening in a lot more “natural” way and if done right it can still bring many link building benefits for you.

With that here are some of the biggest SEO benefits of tiered link building as of today if done correctly:

Increases Your Website Ranking

Building backlinks is becoming a lot harder than used to be.

Therefore, you have to be very strategical about how you are doing it and maximize every opportunity you have.

And with tiered link building, you can still increase your website ranking in a very cost-effective way.

For example, still one of the effective and common ways to do tiered link building is to include a backlink to your website and to one of your tier 1 backlinks from your guest postings.

linking to your website and your tiered backlinks from guest posting

This will help you to maximize the guest posting opportunity as often you can only include one backlink to your website, while if you include 1-2 backlinks to your tier 1 backlinks it’s often fine with them.

Or you can also do a three-way link exchange with other websites offering a backlink from one of your guest posts while they would give you a backlink from their website.

three way link exchange using guest posting for tiered link building

This makes link exchange a lot safer while further improving your website ranking and maximizing your marketing efforts.

Lowers Overall Risk

If you are having some idea of building backlinks on a large scale, but you are not too sure, then you can easily test it out on your tiered backlinks.

With tiered link building, you can lower the chances of getting penalized by search engines like Google while still improving your ranking by getting more gray hat SEO backlinks into the mix of your link building strategies.

Definitely, the chances of getting caught are lower with proper tiered link building and it’s one of the important benefits of it.

However, I would recommend you totally avoid any black hat SEO tactics and link building strategies. These do not work anymore and you’re up to a really big problem and doing endless backlink audit.

More Link Juice

As explained with the first tier link building benefit, you can maximize the link juice coming to your website by getting more backlinks in your backlink ecosystem from your guest posts as an example.

You can also OCASSIONALLY link to your tier 1 backlinks or high-quality tier 2 backlinks from your website as well.

Remember, your goal especially with guest posting is to rank it on the first page of Google just like with your own articles on your website.

The reason why is because if you rank your guest posts high in SERPs it will generate a lot more backlinks.

In fact, the study shows most of the #1 ranking pages tend to get followed backlinks (from new referring domains) at a pace of between +5% and +14.5% per month.

backlink growth percentage

Which is a win-win situation for both you and the website where you build your backlinks so you together should try to achieve it.

Therefore, it’s also important to ensure whenever you build a backlink on a website to have internal links coming to it to maximize the link juice coming to your backlink and further improve the ranking for both your website and the content where is your backlink.

Increase Brand Awareness

With tiered link building, there are essentially two ways how you can increase brand awareness.

The first way is as already explained you will improve your ranking. Thus, getting more website traffic to your website means higher brand awareness for you. This is the obvious one.

However, the second way is by getting referral traffic to your website from your backlinks whether it is from social media websites or just like any other websites.

Referral traffic is still very important and wherever and whenever you build a backlink from a website, you also want to maximize the chances of getting referral traffic.

Because Google and other search engines are tracking referral traffic and the more referral traffic you bring from different websites, they can see it as a positive ranking factor.

referral traffic in google analytics a benefit of tiered link building

For example, you can also further improve your referral traffic potential by offering your eBooks or other downloadable content to increase conversions which is another very positive metric tracked by Google.

goal tracking positive signal for google using for tiered link building

More Room for Error

Link building can be a dangerous way and if you are not careful it can be very costly for your website by getting penalized for two years or being totally removed from SERPs by search engines.

Therefore, with tiered link building you have more room for errors as you don’t build only backlinks to your website, but to others as well.

So, despite you build some lower-quality backlinks or use grey hat SEO for link building to build backlinks to your website and tier 1 or tier 2 backlinks, it will seem a lot more natural.

Remember, you will naturally generate trashy backlinks regardless you do or don’t do link building.

For example, for one of my articles, I never built a single backlink, but it generated over 100 backlinks naturally. Unfortunately, all the backlinks are very poor-quality backlinks.

example of bad quality backlinks for tiered link building

Will Google penalize me for these?

Probably not as that would promote Negative SEO attacks across the entire website and we would have the first World SEO War, catastrophic.

Because as said by Google, they are trying to ignore these types of links not affecting your website in any positive or negative way.

john mueller on negative seo attacks and poor quality backlinks in tiered link building

Growing Backlink Profile

And with all these tiered link building benefits you ultimately will grow your backlink profile which can create an even bigger snowball effect.

By applying some of the best ways to get more link juice in your tiered link building ecosystem, you and websites that gave you backlinks will grow in SERPs attracting even more backlinks, getting more traffic, and keep growing.

Therefore, the end result of a properly executed tiered link building strategy is growing your backlink profile a lot faster and in a more natural way by having a higher ranking in SERPs, driving more referral traffic, and boosting your website visibility.

Risk of Tier Link Building

With all the tiered link building benefits I have mentioned, there is also risk associated with it that you should be aware of.

Here are the two biggest risks of doing tiered link building:

Penalty Risk

Just like with any link building strategy, even here you are at risk of getting penalized by Google or other search engines.

However, with tiered link building, it’s even more amplified.

The reason why is because you are trying to maximize the link juice, and backlink opportunities which give Google even more data about your backlink profile.

That’s why when you are doing tiered link building you need to know when and how to build backlinks.

For example, you are not going to do a three-way link exchange or link to your tier 1 backlinks from every of your guest post.

There must be balance and even though it might be tempting to get “results” faster, often rushing these things can cause more harm than good.

So, you must be careful with tiered link building as the risk of penalty is higher than with a single link building strategy.

Loss of Investment

Building backlinks and doing SEO can be expensive and while with tiered link building you can maximize the ROI from your investment, it can also cause losing your investment.

As mentioned, tiered link building increases the chance of traceability of your link building activity as you are maximizing your backlinks opportunities which can be picked up by Google and they can devalue the backlinks you just built.

This of course means that whatever you invest in those backlinks is lost.

Or even worse if Google picks up a lot more of your backlinks, you can get penalized resulting in a total loss of your website and all the investment you have put in.

So, you should be aware that it can definitely cost you more than it can bring, especially if you are reckless and build backlinks at scale.

Black Hat SEO Tiered Link Building

Before I am going to show you how to do tiered link building effectively, first you must understand the difference between black hat SEO and white hat SEO tiered link building so you don’t do something you might later regret.

Black Hat SEO tiered link building involved tactics and techniques used to acquire backlinks to a website in order to manipulate the search engine algorithm to find the website more favorable over the top-ranking websites and outrank them.

Black Hat SEO tiered link building strategies involve techniques that are easy and cheap to do at scale using automation, outsourcing, or buying low cheap links.

An example of black hat SEO tiered link building would be:

  • Creating PBNs
  • Creating link farms
  • Buying links en masse
  • Blog Comment automation
  • Directories automation
  • Web 2.0 links automation
  • Low-quality guest posting at scale

And there could be many more. Not only these are very poor, ineffective links that don’t move the ranking needle, but they are a massive risk even if you build them for your tier 2 backlinks.

So doing any of these is a total waste of time despite they take very little time, but every minute is valuable, and doing black hat SEO-tiered link building is just burning those minutes.

White Hat SEO Tiered Link Building

Before we get started, there is actually no white-hat SEO link building.

Google hates link building and the only thing they tolerate is a blogger outreach to inform about your content but offering something in exchange is already black hat SEO as well as other common link building strategies. (Source)

john mueller on outreach is fine example for tiered link building

So in this tutorial, we will refer to white hat SEO link building as any link building strategy that is focused on building only high-quality backlinks that comes from genuine and relevant website to your niche/industry AKA niche relevant backlinks.

The most common white hat SEO tiered link building techniques you will use are:

  • Guest blogging
  • Resource link building
  • Press release link building
  • Directory submission
  • Social Fortress building
  • Link exchange (careful with this one)
  • Content contributions
  • Claiming Unclaimed mentions
  • SEO best practices (best way to earn backlinks is to rank #1)
  • Forum links
  • Research and data studies

Of course, there are way more link building strategies, but these will be your bread and butter when doing tiered link building.

It’s also depending on the size of your team. You won’t do all these strategies if you are alone.

With that, let me show you how you can actually do tiered link building the right way:

How to Build Tiered Backlinks Effectively?

The old fashion tiered link building where you build high-quality backlinks to your website, low-quality backlinks to your high-quality backlinks, and total trash quality backlinks to your low-quality backlinks are gone, capito, finish…

old way of doing tiered link building

In other words, it doesn’t work anymore. (Thank Google god, oooooh).

Now the new tiered link building way is to build only high-quality backlinks to your website and your tier backlinks

So, in this tutorial, I am going to show you a new way of tier link building that actually works and can bring you long-lasting benefits.

Also, I recommend you to check out my guide on high-quality backlinks so you know what makes high-quality backlinks and high-quality backlinks, trust me, it’s not only what you think.

Step #1: Create Topic Clusters

Topic clusters are the fundamental part of your SEO strategy and B2B SEO strategy and it’s important to plan topic clusters together with link building to see the best positive results.

topic cluster model seo

I highly recommend you create topic clusters around your main product or service category keyword (check out my SEO Lead generation guide to learn more).

For example, if you are selling project management software, then you would create topic clusters around project management.

example of topic clusterfor tiered link building

It’s important to note that topic clusters are made of all types of pages whether it is products, categories, service pages as well as blog posts. The complete topic cluster should have keywords with all types of search intent from informational, commercial, to transactional.

This will help you ensure you are covering as much about the topic as possible and creating an SEO funnel to drive brand awareness for your brand as well as lead generation from your product or service pages.

Also as said in Google’s helpful content update, this is one of the warning signals that this update might hit you harder than your grandma’s spatula:

“Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?”

Google wants expertise and focus. So, if you’re a jack of all topics, Google sees you as a master of none.

They want content that comes from those people that are gaining expertise by focusing on one particular topic.

And by focusing on topic clusters, you will pass this test young SEO-wan!

To learn more about topic clusters read my guides on:

Step #2: Create a Proper Internal Linking Structure

Cross linking SEO is arguably one of the most important on-page SEO factors that you should be optimizing for as they can improve your overall ranking, helps you drive more website traffic, bring more sales/leads, and improve your overall website performance.

The reason why they can improve your website performance in so many ways is that they pass the link juice from one of your pages to another allowing you to effectively collect and spread your link juice across your entire website.

internal links pass link juice so important for tiered link building

On top of that creating topic clusters and connecting content from the topic cluster with internal links is one of the key steps in building Semantic SEO on your website. It will help you to build strong topical authority and relevance on your website.

This will help you to spread the link juice to your money pages and create an SEO funnel in order to improve your ranking for your profitable keywords to generate more SEO leads.

So, make sure you link from your informational content to your commercial and transactional so that once you will be building backlinks you can rank for your important money keywords to increase your SEO lead generation.

creating internal linking strategy important for tiered link building for seo leads

Step #3: Build Tier 1 Backlinks to Your Topic Cluster

As said, here you will want to build only high-quality backlinks for your website using mixed of common link building strategies such as:

  • Resource link building
  • Press Release link building
  • Link exchange
  • HARO link building
  • Guest posting
  • Skyscraper technique
  • Directory submissions, and others

It’s important that if you want to start with tiered link building make sure you can do guest blogging as this will be the main way to build your tier 2 backlinks!

Also, depending on your website size and authority, you will build backlinks on websites with different authority levels.

For example, if your website authority is 30 according to your SEO tool like SE Ranking, then I recommend you start building backlinks on websites with a website authority of 10+/- relative to yours (20-40 if you are 30) and then adjust as you grow.

how to build tiered 1 backlinks focusing on the right website authority

Because if you try to build backlinks on websites with high website authority, they most likely will ignore you. So don’t waste those backlink leads and save them for later.

It’s also important to consider the anchor text ratio for your backlinks to avoid spam detection, here you can see how it works:

optimal anchor text ratio for ranking

It’s very important that you follow link building best practices, here you can find guides that help you get started:

Step #4: Build Tier 2 Backlinks to Tier 1 Backlinks

Here is when you will want to maximize your current tier 1 backlinks opportunities to land tier 2 backlinks.

So here are some of my favorite ways to build tier 2 backlinks

  • Include tier 1 backlink in your guest posting: When you are writing a guest post you can also include one backlink to your tier 1 as well as to your website.
  • Do a three-way link exchange with other websites offering a backlink from one of your guest posts while they would give you a backlink from their website.
  • Always share new tier 1 backlinks on social media: Every time I land a new backlink, be it organic or I built it, I try to share it on social media. In the chance of getting a social signal and perhaps one lucky eyeball that links to the content.
  • Link exchange: If you or somebody approaches you to do a link exchange you can ask them to link to one of your tier 1 backlinks. This is when two-way link exchange is not possible, so instead of losing the opportunities altogether at least, you get it through your tier 1 backlink.
  • Forum link building: If you are particularly active on forums, then you should definitely build some tier 2 backlinks here.
  • Award press release: Create a press release about your recent awards. This is perfect to build newsworthy digital PR and boost your tier 1 backlinks with PR. Plus they often link to you as well.
  • Purchase cheaper niche edits: Buying cheaper niche edits (use Fat Joe) for your tier 1 backlinks can still prove to be effective. It can force Google to crawl your tier 1 placement plus it can boost the authority.
  • Article submission sites (Questionable): While I don’t really like this, it can still help. Especially by speeding up the crawling of the tier 1 backlink content or getting extra awareness which can increase the chances of getting backlinks.

With that, here are also some of the tier 2 link building best practices:

  • Make sure to build backlinks to tier 2 backlinks that you would not be afraid to have pointing to your website.
  • Keep up the relationships with those that gave you a backlink. I had a guy who changed company and gave me a backlink from the new company.
  • Find tier 1 backlinks ranking close to the first position in Google. Remember the higher the ranking position the more backlinks the page generates. You want to have tier 1 backlinks ranking in the first position!
  • Always inform about the tier 2 backlinks that you have built. Trust me, if you get 2-3 people doing it the same for you, it adds up pretty fast. Rule of reciprocity! But they need to know you did that!
  • Cooperate on your tier 2 backlinks. Having a team of 2-5 partner websites cooperating on tier link building will help you to build high-quality backlinks on a consistent basis much easier.

And now I also have some of the things you should definitely avoid when doing tier 2 link building:

  • Wasting time on worthless links like PBN, comment submission, etc. This will not work and will only damage your reputation if find out.
  • Building links to worthless pieces of content that never will rank anyway. You know those 500 words articles with zero value. Don’t build backlinks to those.
  • Using automation to build links. As said, it’s trash, doesn’t work and you would just become the shame of your family!

Step #5: Build Tier 3 Backlinks to Tier 2 Backlinks

So, once you know how to build backlinks to your tier 1 backlinks, you might ask yourself, well I already did everything I can, what else is left?

And you’re right, there is nothing left because you don’t build backlinks to your tier 2 link building!

As said, you only build high-quality backlinks when doing tiered link building. Therefore, it has absolutely no economical sense to build backlinks to your tier 2 backlinks.

So you don’t do tier 3 backlinks anymore at this time.

Because as said, those trashy, poor-quality backlinks don’t work so you won’t be wasting your time on this and will stop spamming other websites.

Look at those genuine, non-generic comments…

blog comments spams using automation example to avoid for tiered link building

Finale Advice

Building backlinks is getting harder, it requires more resources and you need to be even more careful. That’s why doing the old 3-stage tiered link building doesn’t make sense anymore.

And that’s why I recommend you skip the third tier and just focus on building backlinks to your website and your tier 1 backlinks.

Anyway, most likely you will still find it hard to even manage those two tiers. Therefore, you should learn other ways how to boost your off-page SEO.

That’s why when you want to really start tiered link building, that is when building partnerships and relationships with other like-minded website others is important so you can grow together!

Is there something I forgot, you particularly liked in this article, please let me know your thoughts on my YouTube channel, CAU!

Related Articles:

Also, check out our SEO hub page to find all our SEO resources.


This article was created by Eduard Dziak and may contain affiliate links. The following were used to optimize the article for the best user and search engine experience include:

  • SE Ranking for keyword research and on-page SEO optimization
  • Surfer SEO for SEO-friendly content creation for users and search engines.
  • Jasper AI for grammar correction and information enhancement.

The article is based on the author’s own experience and knowledge, drawn from both their own work and that of their clients, to provide the latest, proven methods.