Beginner’s Guide to Link Building
Before getting into some of the link building tactics, a quick refresher on why building links helps our search engine rankings:
Off-page optimization is a significant and important piece of the ranking equation
Most major search engines look at your link profile and use that to help gauge the quality of your website
A link from Site A to Site B is like a “vote” from Site A for Site B
This is very simply described as “link building”
If every link on the web was the same, and the theme / relevancy of content didn’t matter at all, sites with the most links would win!
But, relevancy of the content, as well as the trust / authority of the domain you’re getting the link from, are very important.
For awhile, all anyone ever cared about was PageRank, named after Larry Page and now a patent owned by Stanford University, which assigns a “weight” value to a webpage. It’s still important, but just one factor among many in the ranking equation.
I strongly recommend getting the book The Search by John Battelle. It’s a comprehensive review of the evolution of search engines through the late 90′s. He discusses a number of different search related topics, including the creation of BackRub, Bibliometrics and Citation Analysis, Eugene Garfield (the creator of the Science Citation Index), and what Impact Factor (IF) means, basically the average number of citations received from published science journals in a two year period.
“Larry Page reasoned that the entire web was loosely based on the premise of citation and annotation. After all, what was a link but a citation, and what was the text describing that link but annotation?” – John Battelle, The Search
Link building is a never-ending task. Let’s look at a few strategies for building links.
Content Marketing and Guest Blogging
Create great, compelling, unique content, add in relevant links back to your site and send it out to relevant blog and website owners. Rae Hoffman-Dolan aka “Sugarrae” has a fantastic two-pronged guest blogging strategy, which she calls Horizontal and Vertical Guest Blogging.
Vertical Guest Blogging - Finding people in your industry, creating great content for them and incorporating a way to naturally include a link back to yourself.
Example: I run an auto parts store. I find a blog on antique cars, and write a great article on how changing the parts on antique cars every 6 months helps the cars last longer, and end the article with a link back to the page on my site about classic car auto parts.
Horizontal Guest Blogging - Finding topics that aren’t in your industry or niche directly, but find a way to relate, incorporate your content and link back to yourself.
Example: I am a supplement and nutrition store owner and I’ve just imported a new super drug supplement from Eastern Europe. I’m promoting my new drug, and creating guest blog content for it. I’ve already reached out to a number of supplement and nutrition blogs, and they’re sick of me guest posting for them all the time. Let’s say the drug helps prevent memory loss, increases focus, aids in muscle building and helps creative thinking.
Now, I’ll target themes where I can work my keyword in:
GMAT Study Blogs – An article titled “7 ways to prevent memory loss while studying for the GMAT”. Include 6 proven memory loss prevention, and make the 7th tip a few sentences on your new supplement.
Video Game Websites – Create a comprehensive list of 100 foods, drinks, exercises, supplements and stimulants that increase your focus for intense gaming sessions. Include your drug as one of the list items, as well as a link.
Music Blogs – Write a post on 7 musicians and how they inspire themselves creatively. You include a number of tactics, including long walks on the beach, painting, and your new supplement (with a link of course!).
Weight Lifting Blogs – An article on 15 proven ways to gain muscle fast, including the use of your new supplement.
More great blog content ideas:
- Writing a “how-to” walk-through guide
- Patch together a number of different strategies into one post (what do you think you’re reading? :) )
- Develop a top 7, top 10, top 50, top 100 list
- Write something controversial
- Debunk a myth!
Great places to find guest blog opportunities:
Find relevant blogs, contribute to the conversation, place a link back to your site
Don’t worry as much about no-follow/do-follow, just contribute to relevant topics, and mention your site in way that helps the reader!
If you’re interested in do-follow blog comments (don’t over-do it!):
Link Building with Social Media
Social Media is a factor in search engine rankings because it’s a quality signal. I wrote more about this on Social Media Today: Quality Signals – Twitter and Facebook’s Impact on Search Engine Rankings
Answering Questions in Q&A Forums
— megan conley (@megconley) March 30, 2012
There are a growing number of Q&A sites that can be great linking opportunities. While not all of them may affect your rankings, (many are no-follow links), they’re a great way to obtain quality, qualified traffic. Here are a few:
Write down all the products, services or tools you’ve used in the last 3 months that you really liked. Contact them, give them a great review / testimonial , and don’t forget to include a link to your site in it!
Many people seem to be very stingy with their linking, particularly when it’s a competitor that’s creating great content. I can understand the issues around this with large enterprises and fortune 500 companies, but I feel like most personal sites and small companies should freely link as much as possible. Creating a “resource” for your users is a great way to link out, as well as a way to signal to major search engines which kind of “link neighborhood” you’re in.
Asking Your Customers
If you have customers you’re close with, talk about link opportunities! Even if you’re not in the exact same vertical, there are always ways to find chances to link to each other. I’m a huge fan of leveraging offline relationships for my link building plans.
Create a Widget
While I won’t go into the technical challenges here, creating a widget is a very scalable way to build links. Try WidgetBox.
Advanced Search Parameters for Link Building
Find websites that are asking for guest bloggers
Keyword + intitle:“write for us”
Keyword + intitle:“contribute to”
Keyword + intitle:“submit” + inurl:blog
Find websites that have a large number of guest posters already
inpostauthor:guest + keyword
inpostauthor:”guest blog” + keyword
inpostauthor:”guest post” + keyword
Find college clubs (with .edu domains) for linking opportunities
inurl:.edu keyword club
inurl:.edu keyword group
inurl:.edu keyword organization
Find university resource lists
inurl:.edu helpful sites + keyword
inurl:.edu keyword + resources
inurl:.edu useful sites + keyword
Find non-profits that accept donations (and put links to donors!)
inurl:.org donors + keyword
inurl:.org supporters + keyword
inurl.org contributors + keyword
Find country-specific links “keyword + inurl:cc.tld”
Create a contest intitle:submit your contest
Competitive Link Analysis
Link Diagnosis - For FireFox only. One of my favorite link analysis tools.
Open Site Explorer - The gold standard of link analysis. Free version still gives you great data.
Blekko (type in: website.com /inbound) – A search engine with a number of great techniques oriented towards the SEO industry
Even More Resources
Link Building Strategies - from Point Blank SEO. Honestly I think this is the best list of link building ideas I’ve ever seen.
A List of Link Building Lists - by Peter Attita, another great list
101 Ways to Build Link Popularity - Aaron Wall just crushing it as always
The ClickMinded SEO Training Course is a comprehensive online training class,
designed to teach you how search engine optimization fundamentally works.