Link building requires dedication and
consistent effort. It is the most difficult, time-consuming and
important task an SEO performs to get a website ranked well.
Certain strategies are well known to SEOs, while others are in the
realm of the experts or forward-thinkers who puzzle them out. I
have attempted to list here many of the link building tactics used
by the SEO community.
Although it may seem an obvious and tired way to build links,
directory use is still valuable and valid. I have compiled an
exhaustive list of directories including PR, pages that have been
spidered, and submission requirements for directories. When
submitting to directories, make sure to vary anchor text and try to
use your keywords in the description and title fields as naturally
as possible. A good SEO should be able to obtain between 75-150
unique backlinks just from directories.
- Top Competition
This tactic can help you generate the most visitors to your site.
Search Yahoo, Google, MSN and the other search engines for each of
your important keyword phrases and make a point of attempting to
get a link from each page. Oftentimes a direct phone call to site
owners or a very tactful email can go a long way. I've even used
handwritten letters to attempt to cajole site owners into giving me
a link. Use whatever resources you have help persuade - links from
other sites you own, money (if you have it), free SEO services,
contributions of articles or content, etc.
When I use this technique, I'll typically make a spreadsheet
listing all of the sites I have a shot at getting a link from (i.e.
excluding direct, obvious competitors). I then get as much contact
information as I can about each one and run down the list. This can
be very time-consuming, but also exceptionally worthwhile. Even if
your site doesn't get ranked much higher, each link from a site
that ranks in the top 20 will bring direct, targeted traffic.
- Link Searches
This old technique has been honed to a science by many SEOs, but
there is always room to improve. The goal is to use Google/Yahoo to
search for pages that let you add a link (reciprocal, paid, etc.)
that already have your keyword or some closely related content on
them. Often these searches turn up smalltime site operators with
reciprocal link directories managed by 3rd party software. Don't
overlook these, and make sure you submit. But the real prize is
pages that give free links or offer paid links to sites they feel
are important - many of the highest PR links can be obtained
through this method, especially if you conduct the search at
The following searches are worthy of being tried, but feel free to
- intitle:add+url "keyword phrase"
- intitle:submit+site "keyword phrase"
- intitle:submit+url "keyword phrase"
- intitle:add+site "keyword phrase"
- intitle:add+your+site "keyword phrase"
- intitle:directory "keyword phrase"
- intitle:list "keyword phrase"
- intitle:sites "keyword phrase"
All of the above searches can be used without the intitle to give
even more results. As with other link building processes, these are
tedious and time-consuming, but it is critical to stay focused on
finding quality, relevant links. When using this method, make sure
you note to which other sites the page is linking and what text
content is listed. If it fits well with your content, don't worry
if the page is PR0.
- Usurping Competitors' Links
Although this may sound unseemly, it is one of the most effective
ways to build links, and is commonly practiced. The goal is to find
as many domains and pages as possible that link to your
competitors' sites and get those sites to link to you as well. This
is often easier than it sounds, because the site is already linking
out to people in your industry. Money, services, links or simple
requests are all used to get the job done.
The most effective ways to find your competitors' links are listed
- At Yahoo! type
- At MSN's
techpreview type link:url.com -site:url.com
- type link:http://www.url.com
- At Google type "url.com"
These are typically the most reliable way to find the sites and
pages that link to your competitors and, incidentally, those sites
which link to you. Remember to be as courteous, direct and friendly
as possible. Don't forget how effective non-electronic methods of
communication can be - phone, letters, etc.
- Article Writing & Submission
Writing unique, valuable content about your subject matter for your
own site is the most critical piece of on-site SEO. But it can also
be a fantastic way to generate quality links from other sites. Many
existing websites are designed around hosting the content of others
and providing links back to them. I have listed some of the biggest
3rd-party article hosting sites below.
General Articles - These cover a wide range of subjects and will
accept submission on many topics:
These are just some of the thousands of sites that offer the
ability to spread your content around the web. Additional sites on
your specific topics can be found using the search engines.
Especially prevalent are sites offering content in website
marketing & technology - there are hundreds of sites that deal
in content on these issues.
- Forums & Online Communities
Generating links through forums is often considered
spam, but forums are valuable tools for link builders as long as
the proper methods are employed. The forum signature of a member is
certainly a fair place to promote your site, and while doing so may
not provide a worthy backlink in the search engines' eyes, it does
offer visitors on the forum a chance to see your site.
The primary goal of joining a forum should be to contribute and
learn from the community, but promotion certainly isn't out of
place, as long as it remains on-topic. In SEO forums, people
constantly plug their new directories, tools, articles, etc. These
are all appropriate as long as they are subtle, relevant and not
When a specific page, tool or link would provide a great resource
or answer to a question in a community, don't hesitate to provide
it. Much of the information used to write this article and the SEO
Survey tool was provided in forums through links. Just remember to
are harsh if they feel someone is there to spam or advertise.
- Blogging & Comments
Blogging is a very effective way to get natural inbound links, and
by having a personal blog at your site, you can more easily make
commentary at other sites that link back to you. DO NOT spam blog
comments with advertisements; your goal is to create an online
reputation you can be proud of. Blog owners and visitors will not
take kindly to blog spam. The key to effective blogging for links
is to make sure you comment relevantly & intelligently about
the specific subject in the blog. A well thought-out response to a
relevant blog or article can bring not only search engines, but
more importantly other readers of the blog to your site through the
link. If your content proves interesting, you could build much more
than just a single link through your comments.
Another important thing to remember is that your link in blog
comments may not count at all in the search engines. Many blogs
prevent access to these comments or don't provide direct,
spiderable links for blog visitors. This, combined with the fact
that these comments are buried at least 2-3 links deep from the
main page means that you should keep your focus on the visitors you
might generate, rather than the search engine optimization you
However, you should still be as SE friendly as possible. If the
subject matter deals directly with your keyword phrases, you're in
fine shape, but if they are on related subjects, it can't hurt to
use your keyword phrase(s) once or twice in a longer comment/entry.
You should also try to make your 'name' - which is typically the
anchor text for your link contain at least one of your kw phrases,
but remember to keep it varied and never let it overtake the
importance of getting visitors, i.e. if your site is about Orange
County T-Shirts, having a 'name' of OC-Tshirt-Man can't hurt you,
but Orange-County-T-Shirts is probably not as wise.
- Renting Pages from Authority Sites
This tactic is not often mentioned, but can be extremely valuable.
The premise is to rent, for a monthly fee, a page hosted on a
larger or more authoritative site in your industry. You then add
content & links on the page to your own site(s) with the anchor
text you choose and in the format you select. These are almost like
'advertorials' in magazines, where you provide content that the
site links to (hopefully not more than 2 links from the homepage)
and then link back to your own site.
The fundamental difference between this tactic and simple article
hosting is that you approach a site or company that doesn't
normally host other people's content about having your information.
Although rejection is often likely, the benefits can be phenomenal,
as the page itself may rank well for your search terms very
- Purchasing Online Advertising
Link building through advertising is exceptionally expensive, but
it can bring in good returns if properly managed. Make sure as you
buy links that you get the click-through rate from the seller for
the past 6 months. You should get a lot of other statistics to
review as well - make sure to avoid advertising in places where the
seller doesn't have good information on click-through rates,
visitors, etc. You'll also have to work around re-direct scripts,
links sent through ad networks (like DoubleClick), etc. As long as
you are up front and friendly, you'll be able to have some success
in this arena as long as you have the funding.
- Text Link Brokers
Although initial thoughts about link brokers can give a bad
impression, this new industry can actually have a positive value on
your link building efforts. I recommend against purchasing sitewide
links unless your only goal is to build PR (i.e. directories or SEO
related sites, etc.). Sitewide links have come to be associated
with "manipulation" of the SERPs by search engines and should be
largely avoided. However, purchasing text links on specific,
related sites surrounded by the content of your choice can be
beneficial, if difficult to find.
The key to a successful text link is that all the components of
natural SEO are there:
- Is the page closely related to your site's topic?
- Is the link placed in a strategic position - i.e. not in an
obvious advertising space or footer?
- Is the site related to the topic of your site and the topic of
- Is the site spidered frequently by the search engines and do
the pages have visible PR?
If the link meets these criteria, it could be very worthwhile.
However, be careful to avoid paying high prices for a particular
page or site, simply because of its PR. It is more likely that
multiple low PR (3,4 & 5) pages are worth more to you than a
single PR7 or 8.
Several lists of text links sellers are available online:
- Link Sellers - List
of Text Link Ad Sellers
Link Brokers - Discussion and some links at SearchEngineWatch
Be wary and always do some search research and asking at the
major SEO forums prior to buying from text link brokers. The
industry is, sadly, rife with scammers & companies that don't
deliver as promised.
- Unique Tools & Services
By offering specific, relevant free Internet tools/services at your
site, you can generate naturally built links. My recommendation is
to find a tool or service that isn't currently offered or that you
believe you can improve upon. For some industries, this will be
much harder than others, but creativity is your best tool. Imagine
what automated web service, list of resources or submission-type
tool would best benefit you and then build it and offer it on your
Some excellent examples are listed below (these come straight from
- For a site about animals, a tool that visually diagrams the
- For a site about travel, a tool that creates a pre-planned
itinerary based on a selection of interests
- For a site about real estate, a tool that estimates property
value or gives a % chance of selling for a based on time, region
The possibilities are endless, and there is little doubt that
the web can automate and make easier hundreds of tasks in any
industry. The key, after you have built your tool, is to promote it
with industry leaders - send it to bloggers who discuss your
subject matter, ask people to use and evaluate it on forums, etc.
You can even try to promote it by writing an article about your
findings, rapidshare downloads,
development or the simple existence of the tool and submitting it
across the newswires.
- Automated Link Building Programs
Many SEOs feel that automated link building is a
surefire way to get banned/penalized by the search engines. If you
are caught practicing this tactic, I would certainly agree.
However, for those willing to take risks, the rewards can be
substantial. Well-built and well hidden link networks often bring
higher rankings in a short amount of time. The key is to select a
provider who will offer the following:
- A vastly distributed network that is not interlinked and
doesn't share any C-Block IP addresses
- Linking pages that contain some relevant content that has been
well-linked through a sitemap system
- Pages that are as close to naturally-designed and built as
- A company that can speak at an expert level about SEO and the
tactics they use to avoid detection - call them and talk to them
first; their knowledge and competence should be instantly
- Someone you trust and have researched thoroughly - I DO NOT
recommend posting on forums about these companies, as you could
damage your chances for success. Just ask for recommendations from
trusted members of the SEO community.
- Pages that link not only to your site(s) but to other relevant,
related sites as well - even if they are your competition. That
way, if you get penalized, at least your competition is suffering
This is one of the riskiest strategies that can be pursued in
link building and I recommend it only with extreme caution. You are
breaking the search engine's printed rules by "intentionally
manipulating the search results" and you should have a contingency
plan in the event of disaster.
- Donations & Charity
Many high PR websites are run by charity organizations, open-source
technology groups & the like. Contributions of time, money or
resources in exchange for links are commonplace and very
worthwhile. For this type of link building, relevancy is still
important, but you may not be able to find any link partners in
this segment if you focus solely on topic-sensitive sites &
pages. It may be very worthwhile to donate regardless and see if
the links from PR7 & 8 pages can help to boost your
In order to find sites like these, I use the PR Search
tool at SEOChat to search for terms/phrases like donate,
contribute, give, etc. Appending your broadest search terms to
these types of words can help you find the sites most likely to
pass you a good link. Remember that even if non-profits, charities,
etc. don't have a link program in place, they may be more than
happy to provide a special link for you if you request it when
contributing. If nothing else, these links and the time/money you
spend getting them are a great way to sleep better at night.
- Press Releases
Press releases written by an SEO firm can contain a carefully
worded title, well placed keywords and a link to the site that is
the subject of the article. SEOs have been using press release
services for some time, and as with many other things, the more you
spend, the better distribution is. Press releases can also rank
well on their own, particularly in the first few days/weeks of
release as they receive the 'fresh content' boost in the SERPs. A
particularly interesting or well-written press release may even
garner the attention of some larger players in the new market, and
if your article is picked up by one or several good sources, it can
serve as a great boon to traffic and exposure.
Success relies on the careful crafting of the article itself -
providing excellent, factual information in a way that is
interesting to read and relevant to the industry. Hiring a
journalism student for $100-$200 an article or a more experienced
professional for more may well be worth the money. In any case, the
press release needs to be sent through a distribution site. The
following are popular in the SEO industry because they offer links,
serve to a large variety of sites and provide enough flexibility to
let an SEO perform well.
The top two sites listed are the largest, with the greatest
distribution networks, but each site offers its own unique benefits
and some are less expensive than others. It is worthwhile,
especially if you have the money and are in a competitive arena, to
opt for the maximum spend at PRWeb - somewhere around $250 per
article. The distribution that is achieved will determine the value
of the links and the article. It's also important to keep in mind
that duplicate content penalties may hurt you - DO NOT re-publish
the press release on your own site.
- Natural Link Building
Although undoubtedly a difficult and time consuming method, as well
as one of the more unreliable ones, natural link building is what
powers most of the top sites on the Internet. This method involves
developing the most useful, relevant content that provides the best
resources, tools, services, prices, etc. in the industry. By
offering the web community the best possible site, you can gain
natural links through the power of having others on the web link to
Sadly, this tactic is somewhat usurped by the search engines, as
newer sites often fair exceptionally poorly in the search results,
especially for popular terms. In order to build natural links,
people must be exposed to your site. At one time natural link
building was the very best method to get traffic and links, but in
the current state of search and traffic, it is more of a boost that
you use to help convert some of the webmasters & bloggers who
might visit your site into link builders.
Building valuable content is no easy task, and building an
industry-leading resource is even more challenging. However, the
long-term benefits can be spectacular, assuming you have the money
and time to maintain your resource without proportional income.
Remember to ask yourself what someone who comes to your site might
want and try to provide the absolute best service/information in
your industry in the cleanest, most usable site possible