Link Building Techniques
There are loads of ways to build links. The techniques you choose should depend on how competitive your industry is and what resources you have at your disposal. You need to think about how much time you have and whether you have access to content writers, designers, developers, and authoritative people in your company, etc. If you can weigh all of these things up, it should give you a better idea of which techniques to prioritize.
Remember the list of questions you need to be asking yourself here:
- What are the goals of the business?
- What assets and resources do you have available to you (i.e., design)?
- What types of links do you need based on your own link profile?
- What types of links do you need in order to compete based on the link profile of your competitors?
- How much time do you have?
At this point, I’m also going to highly recommend you check out this epic list of link building strategies from Backlinko.
Here are a number of techniques in more detail. I’ve explained each technique using the same structure:
- A definition of the technique.
- The types of links you can get with this technique.
- The process you use for this technique.
- Further reading and resource for this technique.
These should not only educate you on the technique, but also help you go and apply it straight away if you choose to. Make sure you refer to the chapter on how to choose your link building techniques if you’re not sure which techniques you should use.
You will also notice that I’ve tried to include opinion from Google on certain techniques where possible, and while I don’t advise that you take everything they say as 100 percent true, I do think you should know what they have to say. It can give you an indicator of what to avoid and what to be careful of. You can also guarantee that your client or your boss will reference what Google says from time to time, so it’s good to be up to speed!
Note: It’s unfortunate that this is the first technique on the list, but I can’t help alphabetical order! But I wanted to include it for completion and to tell you to be careful and avoid it.
Definition: Link building using article submissions involves writing a piece of content which is then submitted to an article directory, it then contains one or two links back to your website. There are two ways this can generate links to your site. The first is by you submitting content to lots of these article directories, either manually or by using some kind of automated software. The second is by other people going to the article directory and using your article on their own site and then keeping the link in place.
Types of links you get: Pretty low-quality although you can get high volume and domain diversity. You can usually also get to choose the keyword anchor text of your choice, much in the same way you can for guest blogging. However, you have far less control over the quality of sites that your content will appear on, especially if you use automated software to syndicate content.
It is pretty clear that Google does not see it as a quality link building tactic, and it is no doubt, working on spotting these links algorithmically and discounting them.
The process: I’m not going to outline the process here as it is one I can’t recommend for any website that wants to rank for the long-term.
Definition: This technique involves offering an interview to a website or blog within your industry. In return they give you a link. This works particularly well if you have a prominent, public facing person within your company who is well known within the industry, or if you have subject matter experts who regularly speak at conferences.
Types of links you get: You can usually get some high quality links using this technique because you can select which blogs and websites you reach out to. However, this technique is quite reliant on you having someone of interest at your company! Otherwise the higher quality, influential websites may not be interested. If you can get them, these links can be in-context and dropped into the intro to the interview, so they will be positioned near the top of the content. You may also be able to get some custom anchor text if you ask for it.
The process: As mentioned previously, this technique works best if someone within your company is influential or respected enough for people to want to hear from. You also have to have access to this person or be able to answer questions on their behalf – with their sign-off.
- Find someone within your company who is happy to be interviewed and is willing to share their opinions.
- Find relevant blogs within your industry who may be interested in asking questions and publishing the answers.
- Email the blogs you find and pitch them the interview.
- If they reply positively, ask them to put together questions they’d like to ask.
- Send the questions to this person for them to answer, or answer on their behalf and get them to sign-off on them.
- Send the answers to the blog, along with a picture and short bio of the person interviewed, this is where you include the link.
If possible, ask them to add the picture and bio to the top of the published article.
Definition: This technique involves going to other blogs and leaving a comment on their blog posts. Most blog comment systems will give you the option of linking your name to a website, so if your comment is approved, it will contain a link back to your website. Most of the time, this link will be “nofollow” which means that Google will not pass link equity across it. However, you can sometimes find blogs where the blog comments are followed links.
This is actually quite an old technique and was massively used (and abused) when most blog platforms left comment links followed. In general, it has a bad reputation as a spammy technique because many people use it to get a high volume of links. However, if used correctly, it can be a legitimate technique and a good way of interacting with relevant bloggers in your niche.
Types of links you get: As mentioned, most blog platforms will add the “nofollow” or “ugc” attribute to the link so you may end up getting lots of these types of links. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if there are other reasons for the comment, such as participating in a blog discussion or trying to interact with good bloggers in your niche.
If you choose the spammy route, it is possible to use software to find blogs that allow comments to have followed links. If you choose this route you can often get high volumes of links and sometimes, the anchor text of your choice. However, this is not a recommended way of using this technique.
The process: I’m not going to outline the spammy way to carry out this technique because it isn’t one that I’d recommend doing. Here is a more legitimate way of blog commenting:
- Find relevant, quality blogs in your niche that have comments open on their posts.
- Observe the author’s blog posts. If they make a point you agree with or want to debate, go and leave a genuine comment on the blog post.
- In the name field, put your own name and put your website in the URL field.
- If approved, the comment will link back to your website.
- Keep commenting and genuinely engaging with bloggers, this can lead to other benefits and ultimately, the chance to get good quality, editorially-given links instead of blog comment ones.
Definition: This technique is a variation of ego bait. The idea is that you get a number of bloggers to contribute to a piece of content. For example, you may contact lots of successful business owners and ask them to each contribute some content on what they’ve learned over the years. You then collect all the answers into a single piece of content. However, rather than just publishing these ideas into a blog post, you collect them all into a book instead – then you print it and send each of the contributors a copy.
This is very different to how many companies try to engage with other people online and can leave a lasting impression. You can then follow up via email and ask them to share links to online versions of the book.
Types of links you’ll get: This technique could get you a reasonable volume of links if you contact and get good responses from enough people. You do need to make sure you engage with people who are likely to share links to the book afterwards, and to make printing a book worthwhile you should contact several people.
- Identify the theme of your content that will be published, try to focus on providing really useful content to your audience.
- Find lots of bloggers / experts on this topic area and collect their contact details.
- Craft your outreach message, customize it and send out to your contact list.
- Collect all responses into a single document and format it with images of the contributors.
- Follow up with any contacts who haven’t replied.
- Use a service such as Lulu to get the books printed and mail them to the contributors.
- Create an online version of the book and offer it for sale very cheaply or with proceeds going to a charity.
- Follow up with the contributors after a few days to ask them to share the online version.
Broken link building
Definition: There are two slight variations of this technique. First, you can run some link analysis on the links already pointing at your website to see if any are broken. By “broken,” we mean that the link is pointing to a 404 page for example. The second variation on this is to look for broken links that point to a site similar to yours. You can then contact the website where the link is hosted, tell them about it and conveniently mention that they could link to your awesome site as well.
Types of links you get: You probably won’t get a huge numbers of links with this method as there is quite a large manual/human element involved in the research and outreach. However, it can be a relatively quick way of getting links and perfect if you do not have many resources for other big link building ideas. You do stand a chance of getting the anchor text of your choice but it isn’t 100 percent definite.
The process: As I mentioned, there are two variations of this technique and the processes are quite similar, but I’ll explain them separately here.
- Run a link analysis tool like Link Explorer or Majestic on your website.
- Drill down to find pages on your website that have links pointing at them.
- Sort the results by Header response code (you may need to export to a CSV).
- Filter by 404, 500, 503 to find the broken pages.
- Go to these pages and verify they are broken.
- You can now either fix the page if it isn’t meant to be broken.
- You can 301 redirect the page to a similar page.
- You can contact the person who is providing the link and ask them to change it to point at a page that is working.
The last option takes more time but ultimately can make those links matter just a little bit more.
- Find websites or links pages that seem good quality and relevant to your website.
- Install and run the Broken Link Checker Chrome plugin on the page.
- If you find broken links, email the owner of the website and let them know.
- In this email, also mention that you have a good resource that could be added to the page or replace the broken link.
The idea with this process is to give you a “hook” to get the attention of the person you’re contacting. Telling them about broken links is a good thing for them to hear about, so you’ll have their attention.
- Guide to broken link building by Napoleon Suarez
- 36 broken link building resources by Citation Labs
- Broken link building from noob to novice by Anthony Nelson
- Broken link building from your competitors by Wil Reynolds
- Broken link building bible by Russ Jones
- Broken link building using Screaming Frog
Building a tool / app
Definition: This technique involves building some kind of small tool or app that performs a useful, specific function. This function should be useful to people within your industry. It should also be relatively simple and focused – you don’t need to build a huge piece of software that could be a product in and of itself. A few examples of this in practice could be:
Types of links you get: This technique can enable you to get very natural links over a long period of time. This is because if your tool or app is genuinely useful, it will become more like reference material, and people will naturally share it with others. So you don’t have to keep doing outreach for it month after month. This means that it can get you very natural anchor text, too.
If you make your tool or app embeddable, you can probably control the link a little. So you can specify the anchor text and the page that the link points to and, if the person embedding it doesn’t edit, this will remain in place. Because of this, you should be quite careful that you do not use commercial anchor text as it may mean you end up with lots of commercial anchor text pointing at your website that doesn’t look very natural. If you build links to your website with commercial anchor text, you want to have some level of control of them in case Google flags it as spam.
The process: With this technique, the process can be quite complicated depending on the complexity of the tool or app you’re building. But you should try to keep it as simple as possible.
- Research your industry to find problems that people have. Can you build a small app or tool that will help solve this problem?
- Email a few bloggers in your industry and ask them if a tool to solve this problem would be useful to them. You can also ask the question on somewhere like Quora or on relevant forums. This helps gauge the interest in your idea.
- If the idea looks like it is of interest to people, work with your developers or hire a developer to build out the tool. Remember to keep it as simple as possible.
- Test the tool with the bloggers who you contacted in step 2 and get their feedback. Iterate on this and improve if you can.
- Once completed, add the tool to your website and start promoting it to bloggers within your niche.
Definition: It is actually quite hard to define exactly what a paid link is. I could say that it is the exchange of money in return for a link that passes PageRank. But what if I give someone a cash discount on one of my products in exchange for a link? Does that count as a paid link? For completeness, here is the Google definition of paid links. One way you can think about the definition of paid links is that any link that is incentivized could fall within the guidelines above from Google.
Types of links you get: Pretty much anything you want, if you pay enough. Some of the reasons people buy links is that it is easy to get the exact match anchor text you want, pointing to the exact page you want, and it’s usually on a high authority domain. Sounds perfect, right?!
The problem is that there are many types of paid links, most of which will give you all of these things, but some can be spotted very easily by Google and competitors. Leaving a footprint when you buy links can be very dangerous, for example if you use a public link buying network. See what Google did to this public link network when it traced it all.
If you are a bit smarter about buying links, then it can be near impossible for Google to find out. It takes a lot of effort to cover your tracks, though, which is why many people go for the easy option of using a public network. The thing is that no matter what way you do it, you are still taking a massive risk with your website if you buy links. If you are an agency and you buy links for a client, you should make them 100 percent aware of the risks – namely that if Google finds out, they can lose all of their Google organic traffic overnight.
The process: Sorry, I'm not going to go into the process on this one. I'm not going to encourage anyone to pursue this technique as it is risky, particularly if you do not have much experience.
- What’s the Cost of Buying Links? I Reached Out to 630 Blogs to Find Out
- SEO Industry Mocks BuzzFeed Story On SEOs Buying Links At Popular Web Sites
- JCPenney caught buying links and penalized
- Overstock penalized after offering discounts to students
- 10 things to learn from the JCPenney SEO Fiasco by Rishi Lakhani
Buying established blogs / websites
Definition: There are two slight variations to this technique. The first one is to buy an established domain that has lots of good links pointing at it, then you move all the content to your own website and 301 redirect all the pages. Effectively, you are consolidating the website with your own and passing link equity to your website. The second variation is to buy a domain, keep it as it is, but just add links to your own domains. This will funnel some of the good link equity to your own website and you’re in full control of the link.
Types of links you get: With the first method, all the links that you get will be going via a 301 redirect, which historically meant that some PageRank was lost. More recently this position appears to have changed. We don’t know exactly how much is lost, if any at all, but it is believed to be a relatively small amount. So you will get some link equity to deep pages on your site, but you may also get irrelevant anchor text if people have linked to the previous website using their brand name.
With the second method, you have 100 percent control over the link, including the anchor text and the page it points to. If you are smart and strategic about this, it can give some of your key pages a nice bit of link equity and anchor text. Be careful not to overdo it, though.
The process: There are multiple ways you can buy a domain so outlining a process here may not be very useful. You can contact a website owner directly to negotiate a sale, you can hire a domain broker to find possible acquisitions for you, or you can go to a domain marketplace like Flippa.
Definition: Before the age of modern search engines (yes there was such a time!) users would find their way around the Internet by clicking on hyperlinks and using web directories. These directories allow website owners to submit their details and if they are good quality, the owner of the directory would include their link within the relevant category. Fast forward to today, and web directories still exist, but normal web users really don’t use them much. But some in SEO still use them because they are relatively easy to get links from. Some will be free and others will be paid.
Types of links you get: Usually low quality, except for a handful of pretty big directories that are still maintained and only accept quality websites. You can often get anchor text links from lower quality directories, particularly if it is a paid directory. Higher-quality directories will only use your business or website name as the anchor text of the link. Directories can also be good for domain diversity and link building for local businesses.
The process: The process for getting links from directories is very simple (and very boring). You can often outsource this work to companies who will submit on your behalf and charge a small fee per directory they submit to. This can be a good solution, but make sure that you get accurate reports of the work that has been done. Here is the manual process:
- Find quality web directories (links below on this).
- Go to their guidelines and make sure that if they charge a fee, it isn't for guaranteed acceptance but for the review of your website.
- If happy, go to their submission form and fill in the details.
- If you paid, make sure you follow up if your link hasn't gone live to see if you've been rejected and why.
Getting links that your competitors have
Definition: This technique involves running link analysis on a competitor to find out which websites link to them. From this, you try to find out which of these websites may also link to you. You then reach out to these websites using the same method as your competitors to try and secure the link to you.
Types of links you get: The quality of link you get here can vary massively depending on how well your competitors have been link building. There is also the problem that your competitors may be getting some of their links because of a really good USP they have, which you don’t. Add to this, the possibility that some competitors will be using spam techniques to get links, and you may find that your time is better spent elsewhere. Most of the time, the types of links you get can be of moderate quality, but the very fact that you can replicate them means that they are not likely to be the absolute best you can get.
While this technique can be useful to get quick wins and a few easy links, it is not one that you want to base your link building strategy around. Your core link building strategy should actually be focused on getting the links that your competitors can’t. This can help make the difference when it comes to rankings and traffic.
The process: For this technique, the process is pretty straight forward but it can take some time to filter through the links and find the ones that are of good quality and that you can replicate.
- Run your competitor through a backlink analysis tool like Link Explorer or Majestic.
- Sort the links by the highest Domain Authority or Trust Flow.
- Go through the links you find and see if you also have a chance of securing a link from the same website.
- Optional: you can download your competitor's links into a spreadsheet, then search for words such as “guest post” or “competitor” in the Title and URL fields. This may produce some links that you can replicate.
- How to Find Your Competitors Best Content (and Steal their Links)
- Competitor Analysis for Link Building: A Guide for People Who Hate Link Building
- Competitive Analysis for Link Building
- The Potential Pitfalls of Competitor Analysis
- Finding Link Opportunities Using Majestic
- The Ultimate Guide to Reverse Engineering Your Competitor’s Backlinks
Getting links from customers
Definition: If you can incorporate this into your process, this can be a great way of getting good links that your competitors won’t. The idea is that you run campaigns that encourage your customers to link to you. You can do this by following up with them after they have purchased and asking them to blog about their experience. Another way is to add an optional field to your customer registration process which asks customers if they have a blog, and you can then segment by this and run campaigns that target these customers.
Types of links you get: You likely won’t get a high volume of links with this method because many customers may not go to the effort of writing about their experience. However, you do have an advantage in that these are the types of links that your competitors may not get. You are also likely to get deep links to product pages and branded or partial keyword match anchor text. This technique is probably best suited to ecommerce websites.
- On your order confirmation emails, add a simple, short sentence that suggests if customers have a website, that they link to you.
- Add an optional field to your customer registration form along the lines of “Do you have a blog? If so, enter it here.”
- Then make sure you follow up with these customers after their purchase.
- You can also segment your mailing list to include those who have a website, and then send email campaigns to them with incentives to link such as competitions.
Getting links from your copied images
Definition: If someone takes an image that you own and uses it on their own website without giving you credit for it, you can contact them and ask them to link to you because it is your image. This can work very well because it’s a totally legitimate thing to ask and many people will comply without thinking about it because the other option is for them is to remove the image. There are a few methods for doing this and you can even actively add high quality images to your website in the hope that people will use them.
Types of links you get: This method isn’t massively scalable because it involves manual work to find the images that have been copied, and you need to send a customized email. You will probably get branded anchor text pointing to your homepage and the websites will probably be good quality. You can also make sure that you only contact high quality websites and not lose time contacting ones where the link may not add much value for you.
- Get the URL of your image by right clicking on it and selecting “copy image URL” or similar. Alternatively, if you’re using Google Chrome, you can right click on an image and click “Search Google for Image”
- Go to Google images and click on the camera icon.
- Paste in the URL that you just copied and click search.
- Scroll down to see pages that have used this image.
- Click through and verify it is your image.
- If there is no link in place, contact the website owner and ask them for a credit link below the image.
Giving discounts / free products away
Definition: This technique involves contacting relevant bloggers within your industry and offering them free products to review and/or discounts on your products for a review. This technique can be a little bit gray-hat because it may be interpreted as paying for links. Google has been known to not take kindly to this type of link building so you should be very careful with its application and be aware of the risks. Google has gone as far as listing it in their Webmaster guidelines as a tactic they don’t like.
To be clear, this tactic carries quite a lot of risk. If you’re going to proceed, it should be with caution and with full knowledge that it could go wrong.
However, this technique can work very well if you have low-cost products that you don’t mind giving away or can give discounts on.
Types of links you get: Given that you are offering free products to bloggers, you can be quite strict with them about the way they link to you. For instance, you could probably ask them to use the exact anchor text of your choice and link to the page of your choice. But, as mentioned, this can be a risky technique and pushing the anchor text too far can send signals to Google that this link isn’t as natural as they’d like. So you should use some caution here.
The quality of link can be mixed here because some of the larger, more influential blogs may have policies in place that means they can’t be seen to endorse certain products, and if they do, they must clearly explain that this is a commercial piece of content. Things can also get a little messy here because of laws in different countries when it comes to online advertising.
The process: If you’re confident about pursuing this technique and have a product to give away, here is the process you can use:
- Find out internally how much product you can give away and how many links you are expected to get in return (e.g., for every $100 of product, you need to get two links).
- Find relevant bloggers within your industry who look like they are independent and not part of a larger company—this makes it more likely that they control editorial policies and can accept products to review.
- Categorize them by the type of product you’re prepared to offer them and start contacting them.
- Ideally you want them to review new products that are just coming onto the market, this gives you additional benefit of marketing your new product.
- Contact them and offer them the chance to review your product for free, perhaps even offer them an additional product to give away to their readers.
- If interested, send them the product.
- Give them some time to use the product, then follow up to get them to write a review on the blog.
- You could ask them to include certain things in their review, such as images and to review certain features. This helps make sure the review is in-depth and not just a few lines of text.
Definition: Guest blogging is the process of writing a piece of content which is then placed on another website, often with a link back to your own website in the form of a bio box or sometimes from within the content itself.
The types of links you get: One big advantage of guest blogging is that you can usually link back to your own website with the anchor text (keyword) of your choice. This is because the site owner usually lets you write a short bio which is attached to the end of the content.
Another benefit of guest blogging is that you can really filter out low-quality websites and concentrate solely on high value sites. Yes, these are harder to get and may take time, but guest blogging is one of the easiest ways of getting links from good authority sites. You can also get good domain diversity with guest blogging as well as getting links from the same site over and over if the site owner likes your content. This is good for getting different anchor text and deep links to lots of different pages.
One big disadvantage of guest blogging that you should be aware of is that it is quite hard to scale while keeping the quality high. A couple of videos by Matt Cutts toward the end of 2012 pointed out that guest blogging was a legitimate tactic, but strongly implied that the quality mattered a lot in how much those links would help.
In 2014, guest blogging came under a lot of scrutiny from Google and they went as far as banning MyBlogGuest from it’s index. Many felt that this was to send a signal to the SEO industry, and not because MyBlogGuest actually broke webmaster guidelines. Cutts then implied that any website using MyBlogGuest as a source of links could see problems appearing, too. This seemed to be felt by a number of webmasters who claimed to receive warnings in their Google Webmaster Tools accounts shortly after, and many admitted to the use of MyBlogGuest.
So what does this mean for this technique?
Guest blogging is still a legitimate tactic. Quality is what truly matters. The tactic itself isn’t bad. The problem comes from the way the guest blogging has been used (when it’s solely for link building). Bottom line: don’t scale guest blogging and keep the quality high.
The process: The guest blogging process is relatively simple, but it can take some time from start to finish. This is because you need to prospect link targets, filter them, contact them, produce content, and wait for it to be published. Here is a simplified process for guest blogging:
- Use Google to find websites that are likely to accept guest posts.
- Gather contact details and link metrics for the websites you find.
- Prioritize your list by the best link metrics and write outreach emails.
- Send outreach emails and keep track of who you have contacted.
- When you get a reply, start to write the content they want.
- Send the content over with your links inserted.
- Tweet and share the page where your guest blog is live.
Definition: Here you will become a curator of content rather than a producer. The idea is that each week (or whatever time period makes sense) you gather the very best content produced from your industry and collate it all into a single blog post. You simply need to add a few lines under each link to explain what it is about and why it has been included.
You can then contact all authors of the content you’ve curated and let them know. You don’t necessarily have to ask them to link to it, as many of them will share the page without being asked. Even if they don’t link to it, this is a great way of building relationships with good bloggers.
Types of links you get: At first, you’re more likely to get social shares than links, which isn’t a bad thing. It will take a bit of time before you start accumulating links to this content. Once you’ve established these as a regular feature on your blog and you’ve built some good relationships, you will be in a position to start getting links back from the people you’ve featured. These links are probably going to be branded and deep links pointing straight to the page where the roundup is hosted.
- Start collecting good articles from your industry. You can use tools like Evernote or an app such as Flipboard to find good articles and save them.
- Once a week, write a blog post that features the best articles of the week and include a short description of each one.
- Share this post on your social networks.
- Contact the authors of each post and let them know they’ve been featured.
- Continue this process on a regular basis.
Definition: With infographics, we’re talking about a specific type of content – usually a single graphic that visualizes some data or facts. The idea being that other websites can also embed the graphic on their own sites and include a link back to the original source on your site.
Types of links you get: When link building with infographics, you can give people the code which allows them to embed it on their own sites. Within this embed code you can define anchor text and target page, so you do have the opportunity to shape the link how you want it. However, many people will not use the full embed code and will sometimes just link to you using the graphic itself. So you usually end up with branded anchor text on a single page.
If you’re struggling to get design resource for your infographic idea, you can use a service like Infogram, which allows you to input data and quickly design your own infographic. It probably isn’t a good idea to do this all the time, but it can be a good way of proving that a concept works. You can then show it to your boss or client to convince them to give you a budget to hire a designer.
The process: The full process for creating and promoting an infographic is a really big one. So I'll just outline the basic process here and link to some more resources below which you can use for more information.
- Define the concept of your infographic.
- Find relevant data for this angle.
- Do some pre-outreach to gauge interest on the angle.
- If good, proceed to design.
- Gather target list of websites.
- Give exclusives to high level targets.
- Publish infographic.
- Carry out outreach.
- After a few weeks, use Google reverse image search to find people who have used it but not linked to you.
- Follow up and email these people.
Types of links you get: There is a difference to static infographics in that interactive ones are usually pretty difficult to embed. So you tend to get very natural links that are placed on other relevant sites who are interested in the angle of the graphic. Depending on the coding technology you use, you may also attract links from very strong coding websites.
The process: Again, the full process is very long and can take some time, essentially the process is the same as any link bait or infographic, except for the coding and development stage.
- Define the concept of your interactive infographic.
- Find relevant data for this angle.
- Do some pre-outreach to gauge interest on the angle.
- If good, proceed to coding and build.
- Gather target list of websites.
- Give exclusives to high level targets.
- Publish infographic.
- Carry out outreach.
Link exchanges / reciprocal links
Definition: You approach owners of other websites and ask them to link to you. In exchange you will provide a link back to them. This is an old technique and one that actually used to work very well. That was up until the Jagger update in October 2005, when Google started to actively penalize websites that overused link exchanges.
This isn’t to say that websites linking to each other will automatically cause you problems. On the contrary, this is a natural act on the web. Consider how often Search Engine Land and Moz link to each other – they do it all the time – but they don’t get penalized by Google.
The types of reciprocal links that Google actively penalized are the ones where no value is added for the user and the reason for linking was clearly just to get a link back. So if you have a page on your website called /links.html, and it is jam packed full of hundreds of links to random websites, all of whom link back to you from a similar type of page on their website, then Google may not like it.
Types of links you get: If you run with this technique, you can probably get links with optimal anchor text, but they are probably going to be from pretty low-quality websites who do not have high editorial standards. You’re also very unlikely to get much traffic, as the link will be hidden away among loads of other links.
The process: I do not recommend link exchanges as a method of getting links to your own website so I’m going to leave out the process here.
Definition: Finding incoming links to pages on your website that are broken. For example, having a link pointing to a page, which, when it loads, gives a 404 error. It is a little unclear whether these links are totally worthless, and there is an argument that they still help the strength of the domain, but I think that it is wasting at least some link equity. Instead of wasting this, you should be trying to funnel all link equity to appropriate pages on your website rather than the broken ones.
There are two main ways you can fix this problem. You can:
- Put a 301 redirect on the broken page that points to your working page. This is easier to do because you are in control of the redirect and can point it wherever you want.
- Ask the person who created the link to change it so that it points directly to the correct page. This is a bit harder to do because you are relying on getting in touch with someone else and them taking the time to fix the link. Some good website owners will do this, particularly if they care about their website because they do not want broken links sticking around. The upside of this is that you do not lose any of the link equity which you may if you use the previous method.
Types of links you get: You are pretty limited here because these are not new links and you do not really control them. You can't really get the anchor text of your choice unless you’re really cheeky and ask the website owner to change it, as well as fixing the link itself. You can get links to deep pages within your website if you wanted, because you can 301 redirect them to wherever you want.
The process: The process for link reclamation is quite straightforward and you can do it using free tools which is handy.
- Go to Link Explorer and enter your URL.
- Click on the Top Pages tab.
- Export the results to a CSV.
- Once in Excel, filter out HTTP statuses of 200 and 301.
- See what is left, you'll probably have a mix of 404, 302, and 500.
- Check that these are actually broken by going to the URL and checking the HTTP header.
- Either 301 redirect the broken URL to another relevant one on your website where you want link equity, or contact the site linking to you and ask them to change the link so it isn't broken and points to the correct page.
Here are some additional resources for learning more about link reclamation:
Link reclamation using video
Definition: This is similar in principle to the method above but with one key difference – you’re finding people who have embedded your video on their website but haven’t linked to you. When you publish your video on YouTube, webmasters can copy the embed code from there. However, the link goes back to the video page on YouTube.com, not your website!
The types of links you get: These are more likely to be smaller volume links and pretty well targeted to your content. I’d assume that if someone embeds one of your videos, then they at least have some interest in related content. So the links could be pretty relevant to your business.
The process: This process is pretty straightforward, but you must have some existing videos on YouTube that have attracted some views.
- Go to YouTube and log into your account.
- Click on “analytics” under your video.
- Scroll down and look for “playback locations.”
- Find “Embedded player on other websites.”
- Scroll through the list to find websites that have embedded your video.
- Go to the site, contact them to say thank you and see if they’d be interested in working with you on future content pieces (where you can get links).
Live blogging an event
Definition: This technique involves attending an industry event and live blogging the presentations. Live blogging is when you take notes from the presentations and publish them straight away on a blog. This technique can also work well when combined with Twitter because you can get lots of retweets, new followers, as well as tweets of your blog. You might also see a nice spike in traffic to your website when you use this technique.
Types of links you get: The volume of links you can get from this depends massively on the niche that you operate in. If you operate in a niche where there are lots of bloggers who attend events, you have a good chance of getting lots of links. But if your niche is quite small and does not have that many bloggers, you probably won’t get as many.
However, the links you do get should be good quality and exactly the kind that Google wants – editorially given. You’re likely to get links from event roundup blogs or even from the organizer of the event itself.
The process: This process isn’t very complicated. It takes more offline organization than online. You need to physically get yourself or someone on your team to the event. If they are going anyway, then it isn’t too much of a problem, but if the event is paid it can be hard to get the budget sometimes.
Bonus tip: Offer to send your team members to the event for training but, in return, ask them to live blog notes for you.
- Find events in your industry. If you aren’t sure if any exist, try searching websites such as Meetup or Eventbrite.
- Go to the event or send one of your team. Make sure they have a fully charged laptop, a charger (or spare battery), and (if possible) a wireless hotspot.
- Choose the speakers to live blog by looking at who is most influential online – these people tend to have large followings and therefore there is more chance of sending traffic to your blog.
- Before the speaker starts, write a quick bio about them and add a picture if you can find one.
- Start to make notes as they talk.
- Every few minutes, hit the publish button to update the blog post.
- Keep republishing until the talk is over.
- Tweet the blog post immediately after and include the event hashtag if there is one.
Monitor for brand mentions without a link
Definition: Sometimes on the web, people will mention you on their website but won’t link to you. While Google is able to see this and may count it as a citation, it is not as powerful as a link, and obviously you are not very likely to get traffic from this. It is possible to monitor for mentions of your brand and website, and check to see if there is a link. And if there isn’t, you can contact them and ask for it to be made a link. The advantage here is that they have already mentioned you, so if you contact them soon after they have published, they are likely to respond positively.
Types of links you get: This is another method that can be quite hard to scale because there is a lot of manual work to find the mentions and send the email. So you are not likely to get a huge volume of links with this method; however, the response rate can be quite good. You’re most likely to get branded anchor text pointing at the homepage of your website.
- Setup Google Alerts or Talkwalker alerts for your brand name and URL.
- When you get emails from Google Alerts or Talkwalker, click on the links and quickly check for a link to you.
- If one doesn’t exist, contact the website owner and ask if they’d mind making the mention a link.
You can also use Fresh Web Explorer to actively look for mentions of the brand name and URL.
Monitor for social shares of your content
Definition: If you create a piece of content and encourage social shares of it, you can monitor for these shares and see if the person sharing has a website. If they do, then you can reach out to them and see if they’d be happy be also link to it on their website.
Types of links you’ll get: This can give any piece of content-based link building a nice additional source of links. The volume will depend entirely on how popular your content is on social networks but if it works well, you should get some good links from a variety of different types of domains.
- Once your content is live, monitor for social shares using a tool such as BackTweets or Buzzsumo.
- Click through to the social profiles of people who have shared your contact to see if they have a website.
- If they have, send them an email and thank them for sharing the content. Then ask if they’d mind also sharing it on their blog.
Pay a leading industry blogger to write for you
Definition: You approach an influential blogger in your industry and ask him or her to do paid blogging for you. The idea is that the blogger is bringing his or her expertise, insight, and social following toward your blog, which can get you links and social shares. This works well if the blogger has a large social following and has genuine insights on your industry.
Types of links you get: Here you are likely to get natural pickup on the content because of the influence the blogger already has. You shouldn’t need to ask for every single link that you get (at least a few should happen naturally). Because of this, you’re likely to get very natural, non-commercial anchor text and the links will be directly to the blog post itself, rather than to your homepage.
- Identify influencers in your niche who write often.
- Monitor their writing and see who gets the most links and social shares.
- Start to build relationships with the bloggers who seem most influential.
- After some time, invite them to blog for you and offer to pay them a fee for their time.
- If they accept, make sure you ask them to send the content out on their social networks.
Definition: The production of content that is meant to be newsworthy (quite often, it's not!) which then gets syndicated across hundreds of news websites around the world. There is usually a link back to the source or a URL reference along with contact details for more information.
The types of links you get: If you have a genuinely interesting story that is of interest to journalists and writers, you may end up getting some very high quality links from magazines and newspapers. However, if you do not really have a story and are just relying on low-level syndication, then the quality will not be that high. Also, because many news syndication websites accept many releases a day, yours can be buried quite far from the homepage very quickly and end up not getting much link equity to pass along to your website.
This isn’t a great technique to use – and not having a real story probably means you will hit a point of diminishing returns pretty quickly. I’d actually advise against doing press releases unless you have a genuinely newsworthy topic. Google also confirmed their stance on this late in 2012, but it didn’t really come as a surprise to most people. Google went a bit further in 2013 and actually recommended that links from press releases should be made nofollow.
The process: You'll notice that above I said that the content should be newsworthy. The reality is that press releases are used by many SEO companies as a cheap and quick way of generating lots of links. However, the quality is not always top-notch and there is a point of diminishing returns with press release link building because you end up getting links from the same sites over and over.
Here is a brief overview of the process for link building with press releases:
- Craft your story into a press release. Keep to the interesting angles and include quotes.
- Insert links and contact details where needed – don't overdo it!
- Choose a time to syndicate your release.
- Send out to press release syndication websites (list below).
- Monitor Google Alerts for links and check Google web search 24 hours after.
Profile pages for people
Definition: If you have senior figures within your company who speak at conferences or are interviewed or quoted often online, then you should make a profile page for them on your website. This can be a good way to get links whenever they are quoted.
You can do outreach to other websites who quote them and use their name and legitimately ask for a link to their profile page. You can also use a tool like Google Alerts to monitor for mentions of the person’s name. You can then check these and see if there is a link.
Types of links you’ll get: Unless you have a very famous senior person at your company, this isn’t likely to attract lots of links in a short space of time. It is more likely to be a long-term strategy that earns you links, but they should be good quality links.
- Create a profile page for the person in your organization. Include lots of information about them and photos.
- Setup a Google Alert or Talk Walker alert for their name, with a setting to email you whenever it finds a mention. If this person has a very common name, it is worth adding a keyword or your company name to keep the number of alerts you get under control.
- When you get an alert, go to that page and check for a link. If one isn’t present, reach out to the website and ask them to make the person’s name a link to the profile page you’ve created.
Reviving old, successful content
Definition: This technique involves finding content that may be a few years old, but was very successful at the time, then taking the idea and doing an updated version. The advantage of this is that you already have a bit of assurance that the content was good because you can check how many links it received and how many mentions it got.
Types of links you get: This technique can probably get you some good editorial links because it is content based. This means you probably won’t get the anchor text of your choice. The links will also probably be pointing at an internal page on your website where the content is hosted.
- Search Google for themes related to your website plus an additional word (e.g., “guide” or “definitive” or “whitepaper”).
- Filter search results by date range and select a few years ago.
- Sort through the results and find interesting pieces of content (or images).
- As you do this, have the Moz toolbar installed so that you can check how many links the page received – if it has received links, save these for later.
- Once you’ve found a piece of content, run a few more searches to see if anyone else has produced similar content recently.
- Assuming no one else has, start working on updating the content idea with modern data and design.
- Once complete, outreach as normal. You can also contact people who linked to the original and tell them about your updated version.
Translating content into other languages
Definition: Here we are talking about taking your successful, existing content and translating it into another language. The idea being that, by doing this, you have more scope to get links from different types of websites, particularly if there is no existing resource of that type of content in that language.
Types of links you get: You’ll be getting links from a variety of different language domains that can be great for link diversity. It can also be great if you’re planning on expanding into other countries at some point because you’ll already have links from websites in that country.
- Check over your website to find the best content so far. A tool like Link Explorer and its top pages feature can help you do this.
- Once you’ve found your best content, do a quick translation of the title and see if it already exists in the language you’re planning on using.
- If the content hasn’t been reproduced by someone else yet, hire a native language speaker and get them to translate the content for you.
- You then need to seed it with key bloggers who speak that language. Again, you can use your translator to help you with outreach and make sure they can understand you!
WordPress Plugin development
Definition: This technique involves developing a new WordPress plugin. You can get links directly from blogs that use your plugin, but this doesn’t happen by default. The user of the plugin has to opt-in to giving you the link. But this isn’t the only way that this technique can get you links. You can also get links from people who review and use the plugin.
In order to benefit from this, you should be sure to have a landing page for your plugin on your own website. Otherwise, people will just link to the page on WordPress.org where your plugin is listed.
Types of links you get: You have a chance of getting lots of sitewide links if you allow people the option to link to you from the plugin itself – mainly if your plugin is one that sits in the footer or sidebar. However, most people will not need to worry about this. In general, you will get links from websites that review your plugin, so they will be editorially given, contain your branded anchor text, and probably link to a deep page on your website.
The process: The process of developing a WordPress plugin is quite complicated and requires a really good WordPress developer to work. The details of creating a plugin are outside the scope of this book, but I will outline the rest of the process. It is quite similar to the one used for building your own small app or tool.
- Research your industry to find problems that people have – can you build a simple WordPress plugin that will help solve this problem?
- Email a few bloggers in your industry and ask them if a WordPress plugin that solves this problem would be useful to them.
- If the idea looks like it is of interest to people, work with your developers or hire a developer to build out the plugin. Keep it as simple as you can.
- Test the plugin with the bloggers who you previously contacted and get their feedback. Iterate on this and improve if you can.
- Once completed, add the plugin to your website and add it to the WordPress plugin directory, where it will have to be approved.
- Make sure you do outreach to bloggers who may be interested in using the plugin. Ask them for a review and see if they will link to you.
WordPress Theme development
Definition: You build a customized WordPress theme and either give it away for free or sell it. Within this theme is a link to your website crediting you as the creator, usually in the footer. This is actually quite an old technique now and one that you should be very careful implementing.
Types of links you get: To a certain extent, you can keep control of the link anchor text and the page it points to. Many people who download and use a WordPress theme won’t bother editing your link or deleting it. You will certainly get sitewide links because your link will be replicated across every page where the theme is used, so you may end up getting thousands (or more) of links from a single domain using this technique.
However, this technique can sometimes get you into trouble, particularly if you’re linking back to a website that has nothing to do with WordPress theme development. Here is a case study by Ross Hudgens talking about when Google penalized a website that had lots of links with the same characteristics as those we’re describing above. It is also referred to in this video by Matt Cutts.
The process: Assuming you’re aware of the risks, here is the process for this technique:
- Hire a developer to code your WordPress theme. You can probably hire someone on Upwork or elance.
- Decide which website and anchor text you’d like to target.
- Get your developer to add a credit link into the footer of the theme.
- Upload your theme to WordPress here.
- To go a step further, you could also approach technology and WordPress theme review websites and asking if they’ll help promote it.