What Is Tiered Link Building and How to Do it Effectively

In the world of search engine optimization, link building tactics are a dime a dozen. However, one link building strategy that has withstood the test of time(so far) is tiered link building.

Tiered link building is comparatively less-used than other strategies, but it can be very effective if done correctly.

This strategy focuses on building quality links to your sites and strengthening your site's backlinks with more links.

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What is tiered link building?

Tiered link building works by first identifying the money pages on your site that need links.

You then get into building backlinks to those money pages, then building backlinks to the external pages that link to your money pages.

The links that go to your money pages are first tier links, and the links that go to your linking pages are second tier links. Some site owners even go as far as building third tier links, but at that point, I feel like you're going too far, and it's unnecessary time and money.

Benefits of tiered link building

Why is tiered link building such an effective SEO strategy? It's well-known that search engines like Google consider links to be a significant ranking factor, and pages with strong backlinks tend to feature higher in search engine results pages than those with fewer backlinks.

More powerful backlinks

The most significant benefit of using a tiered link building strategy is that your existing backlinks become stronger, funneling more link juice to your money pages.

Most of the guest posts and features you land on external sites end up having very few links going to themselves, meaning you'll have to rely only on the relevance of the website/article and the domain authority of the linking domain to funnel the link juice.

example of a page with 0 links going to it

another example of a page with 0 links going to it

In very rare cases, you'll manage to score a link on a page that has lots of linking domains to it already.

But if your primary link building method is guest posting, it's doubtful that the guest post will receive any natural backlinks later on in its life.

By manually building tiered links, you'll make your linking pages much stronger, sending stronger ranking signals via your second tier links to your first tier links.

More natural backlinks

All link building tactics are grey hat, whether you like it or not. That's because Google firmly states that any attempt to manipulate search rankings are against their webmaster guidelines, so even if you score an otherwise "white hat link," it's still an attempt at manipulation!

The biggest pitfall to avoid when trying to make links look "natural" is to make sure that your links don't have a specific type of footprint where they're easily identifiable.

For example, if all of your links are exclusively guest posts, then that's a footprint that Google can easily detect. This is because your links are coming from shorter articles on multiple websites and those articles have very few internal and external links pointing to them.

By building tiered links, you can dampen the footprint by building external links to your first tier links, making the guest post look more natural.

So instead of seeming like a page that was solely created for the purpose of scoring a link, it looks like an actual informational page that is linked to by other referring pages on the internet.

Of course, it's easy to fall into the footprint trap here, too, so make sure you mix it up. Don't build the same number of second tier links to all of your first tier links. Instead, build a few to one page, build just one to another, and don't build any to others.

More traffic and higher rankings

If all goes well, tiered link building will ultimately result in better search engine rankings for your main website.

Better rankings equal more traffic, and more traffic should hopefully equal more revenue.

More domain authority

Another advantage of tiered link building is that your overall domain authority will increase. This will help raise the bar for potential competitors to go up against you, and it will also make your main website stronger in Google's eyes.

Most websites have a tipping point after which they become authorities in their niches, and after that, they naturally start to grow much faster than before.

The more domain authority you have, the faster you can usually reach this tipping point.

Risks of tiered link building


It's very easy to get caught up in tiered link building and if you build the wrong kind of links or you build links to the wrong kind of pages, you may set yourself up for an algorithmic penalty.

A penalty is the last thing that you want because it takes an exponential amount of work to get your site unstuck and moving again.

Opportunity cost

Another risk of tiered link building is the opportunity cost you incur. Instead of building links to your own website, you're spending time and money building backlinks to other websites.

Even though you do receive an indirect benefit, the more significant benefit goes to the site you're actually linking to.

For many website owners, budgets may be tight, and you only have the bandwidth to target sites that you want to link to your own website, not other websites.

There is a way to alleviate the opportunity cost and still build tiered links, which we'll talk about just a little later in this article.

The link building tiers

Tier 1

A first tier link is one that goes directly from an external website to your main website. These are called "first tier links" because there's no intermediate link between them and your site.

Most people who engage in any form of link building tactics build tier one links.

Tier 2

Tier two links are links that go from an external website to a page that's linking to your main website.

Let's say your page is

You then get a guest post from This is your first tier link.

Then, you build a tiered link from to your guest post on This is your second tier link.

example of page with multiple links pointing to it
This page has many links pointing to it

Tier three links

Third tier links take tiered link building one step further and build links to your second tier links, effectively pushing, even more, link juice your way.

The main disadvantage of third tier links is that it can be expensive to build so many links!

White hat vs. black hat tiered link building

As we mentioned above, tiered link building can be white(grey) hat or black hat. Depending on your goals and SEO strategy, you can use either tactic.

Black hat


PBNs are everyone's favorite black hat link building method, and even though PBNs have purportedly been dead for ten years, many people still successfully use them.

The main risk of PBN links is that they're directly going to your money site, and if Google detects something fishy, you can get hit with a penalty.

However, if you land a guest post on an already-authoritative website, a couple of PBN links to a page there won't hurt them, and may even benefit you.

You need to be very careful here - building PBN links to low-authority sites is almost guaranteed to nuke them!

Spun content and web 2.0

Although spun content and Web 2.0 backlinks are a relic of the past in mainstream SEO, there are still certain situations where they can work to boost a site's authority.

Spun content is where you take existing content, put into a software called a spinner, and get a new article filled with synonyms and paraphrases of the original.

As you can imagine, the resulting articles don't always read well.

But if all you need is just some content to embed a link in, it would do the trick.

Web 2.0s like Blogger and Tumblr used to have a lot of authority, but they don't have that much any more.

Still, they're an excellent way to "pillow" your existing links with other natural-looking links.

It really depends on the site you're building links to.

If you managed to score a link on Forbes, party like it's 2009 and black-hat the sh*t out of it.

White hat

In case the black hat methods above are a little too dangerous for you, there are white-hat ways to get links as well.

Guest Posting

The easiest way to get quality links going to your existing backlinks is to do regular guest post outreach or use a guest post outreach service.

In fact, this kind of guest post outreach may be easier, since you're not asking for a link to your own site! Instead, you can pass it off as a regular external link.

You don't even need to do a separate campaign - if your outreach emails are open ended to start with, you can pick and choose which prospects will get a guest post to your main site and which ones will get a tiered link.

Cross guest posting

Cross-guest posting works by building links from a new guest post to an old guest post. For example, let's say you landed a sweet guest post spot on an authoritative website.

You don't want your guest post to link to your money post exclusively, so you'll also throw in some extra links to external pages to make the article more legit.

So while you're adding those external links, why not add them to your existing guest posts?

The only issue with this tactic is that you're creating a closed loop if you keep doing this, and if most of your backlinks also link to your other backlinks, it's creating a footprint.

However, it's safe to do this every once in a while, especially if it's on a very high authority website.


HARO is commonly used for building links by being cited as a source for a journalist. However, in order to build second tier links with HARO, you'll have to become a journalist instead of a source.

Now, when you get a source for your next post, you can quote them and gently ask for a link to one of your guest posts.

You can't make this a quid-pro-quo since it may not be fully in line with HARO's guidelines, but gently suggesting it after the fact won't hurt.

Which sites should you build tiered backlinks to?

While it's tempting to shoot from the hip and build tiered links to all of your backlinks, it's much safer to target high authority websites and eschew low authority websites.

This is because less authoritative websites tend to have fewer backlinks in general, and a sudden influx of links going to a particular page can be problematic.

It can easily be seen as an attempt to game the system if all of your low(er) quality links suddenly start getting a lot of links pointing towards them!

Authoritative websites tend to have a very good mix of high quality backlinks as well as spammier and automated backlinks, so a few links here or there will go unnoticed in the grand scheme of things. Still, they'll undoubtedly boost your backlinks to get that extra link equity.


Tiered link building can be a powerful link building strategy when done correctly, but like all other SEO strategies, it can be easy to overdo.

The best way to build tiered links is to get placements on high domain authority sites(such as the ones we can get for you), then build links to those pages to help boost their individual page authority.

The combination of high domain authority plus page authority results in a decent power boost to your website.

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Written by
Shabbir Nooruddin

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