The Complete Guide to Link Building (Updated 2017)

Before getting into some of the link building tactics, here’s a quick refresher on why building links helps our search engine rankings. This is all covered in the SEO training course and the ClickMinded SEO Certification Test.

  1. Off-page optimization (or link building), is arguably the single most important aspect of SEO.
  2. A link from Site A to Site B is like a “vote” from Site A for Site B
  3. There are essentially 3 factors when it comes to link building (in order of importance): Contextual relevance, authority, and quantity

Contextual relevance, 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 with creative thinking.

Now, I’ll target themes where I can work my keyword in:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!).
  4. 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:

  1. Writing a “how-to” walk-through guide
  2. Patch together a number of different strategies into one post (what do you think you’re reading? :) )
  3. Develop a top 7, top 10, top 50, top 100 list
  4. Write something controversial
  5. Debunk a myth

 

Blog Commenting
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 a way that helps the reader. If you’re interested in do-follow blog comments (don’t over-do it): A Massive List of 1,000 “Dofollow” Blogs

 

Testimonials
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.

Linking Out
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.

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

 

Link Building Resources

Point Blank SEO – Complete List of Link Building Tactics

The single best resource I have ever seen on link building tactics, from Jon Cooper.

Backlinko – Link Building Strategies

Another incredible resource on link building by Brian Dean.

Ahrefs

My personal favorite. The best link analysis tool in the industry. Their link database seems to be the largest, and the way you can cut the link data is extremely comprehensive.

Majestic SEO

Another link analysis tool. My second favorite tool in the link building industry.

Link Research Tools

Another link analysis tool.

Open Site Explorer

Another link analysis tool.

  • May 28, 2017
  • SEO

About the Author

Tommy Griffith has been doing search engine optimization for almost 10 years. He was previously managing SEO at PayPal and Airbnb.He feels weird writing about himself in the third person, but admits that it sounds slightly more epic.