Friday, August 11, 2006


Advanced Link Building Tactics

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.

  1. Directories
  2. Top Competition
  3. Link Searches
  4. Usurping Competitors' Links
  5. Article Writing & Submission
  6. Forums & Online Communities
  7. Blogging & Comments
  8. Renting Pages from Authority Sites
  9. Purchasing Online Advertising
  10. Text Link Brokers
  11. Unique Tools & Services
  12. Automated Link Building Programs
  13. Donations & Charity
  14. Press Releases

  1. Directories

    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 - see List of SEO 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 SEOChat's PR Search Tool.

    The following searches are worthy of being tried, but feel free to experiment:
    1. intitle:add+url "keyword phrase"
    2. intitle:submit+site "keyword phrase"
    3. intitle:submit+url "keyword phrase"
    4. intitle:add+site "keyword phrase"
    5. intitle:add+your+site "keyword phrase"
    6. intitle:directory "keyword phrase"
    7. intitle:list "keyword phrase"
    8. 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.
  4. 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 below:
    1. At Yahoo! type
    2. At MSN's techpreview type
    3. At Yahoo! type link:
    4. At Google type ""

    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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 overdone.

    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 carefully read the terms of use for the forums you post in - many are harsh if they feel someone is there to spam or advertise.
  7. 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 might get.

    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.
  8. 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 quickly.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 the page?
    • 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:

    1. Link Sellers - List of Text Link Ad Sellers
    2. Text Link Brokers - Discussion and some links at SearchEngineWatch Forums

    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.

  11. 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 site.

    Some excellent examples are listed below (these come straight from my imagination):
    • For a site about animals, a tool that visually diagrams the phylum/genus/species relationships
    • 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 & price.

    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, development or the simple existence of the tool and submitting it across the newswires.

  12. 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:
    1. A vastly distributed network that is not interlinked and doesn't share any C-Block IP addresses
    2. Linking pages that contain some relevant content that has been well-linked through a sitemap system
    3. Pages that are as close to naturally-designed and built as possible
    4. 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 apparent.
    5. 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.
    6. Pages that link not only to your site(s) but to other relevant, related sites as well - even if they are your composition. That way, if you get penalized, at least your competition is suffering as well.

    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.

  13. 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 importance.

    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.
  14. 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.

  15. 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 you.

    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.
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