The Ultimate Guide to Link Building
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Probably one of the most popular questions asked(aside from the PR mob) is “How do I build links?” – Not only is this a very good question but without knowing the answer you will get nowhere in Google. Link building is practiced in many different ways and what you may call link building will be seen far differently by another webmaster. But I could care less what you or any other webmaster thinks about what I call link building. What I am interested in is what Google thinks, if Google values it highly than that is where I will be focusing my efforts, if Google does not value it highly then you can be sure I will treat it the same. The only thing that matters in link building is that Google recognizes your work and values it highly, otherwise your work may greatly be in vain.
Again you guys asked for an ultimate guide to link building and you got it. I hope it is all you had hoped for. Remember if you don’t ask you won’t get so send in your requests
- Reciprocal links – You get a link and I get a link and… unfortunately its not as good as it sounds.
- One-way links – Definitely the best link ever, Google sees one-way links as very valuable and there is no way they will ever have negative effects on your serps as reciprocal links can.
- Link Baiting – The idea or implementation of a tool, service or content in such a way that it attracts links without the asking. By far the very best link building idea, it sure beats buying links and it is all natural… Hey even Matt Cutts is for it so it must be good
- Three way link exchanging – IMO a risky link building idea and many times implemented in such a way that it is not all that hard for Google to figure out. It does work though and is better than link exchanging if done right…
- Paid links – This is for webmasters who have fat wallets, they can just dish out money and get high PR, high authority links without doing any actual work or can they?
- Spamming – This is probably the most common and frustrating link building method… the use of forms, forums, blogs and other public community sites to spam a link hoping that the site either automatically accepts all submissions or has a poor moderating team who will fail to catch and moderate the spam.
- Link requesting – This method has gotten alot of flak and even though it has a very small success rate it is still IMO a very good method to use which I shall explain later on in this article.
Reciprocal linking is a very common method of link building even though Google has greatly devalued it. Is there a place for reciprocal linking? Most certainly is, when you link to a site because you love what it offers and want to share it with your visitors and the other site does the same for you without either of you knowing… I can hear webmasters laugh and question “Haha and you really think Google knows whether or not it was a planned reciprocation or not” – I most certainly do… when was the last time you found a site you liked and decided to link to them… okay you found your deepest links page and stuck their link on the very bottom correct? Somehow I am doubting that. lol – I take it you got the point
When webmasters like a site they tend to write articles about the site and link from prominent places on their site.. So yes I think google can tell when a link exchange is worth something by determining the location and prominence of a link on a site, relevance and how many link exchanges are taking place. The days of link exchanging with anybody are over… that will do little for you now days and can even harm you.
I am not saying that link exchanging via links pages is totally valueless, I am saying it is getting very close to that and too risky for me. Sites which create literally 100s of pages of links for the sole purpose of increasing their rankings are going to find it to be worthless. A links page which is linked to from your home page and does not appear to be orphaned and which links to only a few and quality and related sites will still be valuable to you however very few such sites exist who are willing to reciprocate. Most sites worth reciprocating with are not interested…
IMO the days of reciprocal link building are dead and gone and unless you are playing Google as a game and are not interested in becoming a success I highly suggest you move on to greener pastures.
One-way links – Now that is a broad topic. It would include many of the aforementioned methods of link building such as link requesting, paid links, link baiting and others. I just want you to realize the importance that one-way links have on a sites success… without them you will get nowhere. If you do not have atleast a few good quality, related, authority one-way links I highly doubt we will see you too much at the top of Google. Google values such links very highly, unlike MSN and Yahoo which seem to like large quantities of links whether quality or not.
Link Baiting – Ahh my favorite link building method and in my mind the far easiest(takes mental power ). I figure it this way, you need to be offering something worthwhile to convert the traffic you currently have into sales correct? Well if you need worthwhile content/tools/services to convert traffic then why not put extra time and effort into them to turn them into linkbaits? Kill two birds with one stone scenario.
If you do not have content/tools/services which are in high demand than you will likely lose alot of your traffic so gaining traffic should not be your objective. Your objective should be to convert the traffic you already got and bring in targeted traffic. The best way I know to do this is link baits… I have never seen it fail. A good linkbait converts extremely well.
Most people agree with me on this and they want to create a link bait but fail to do so because of one or two obstacles. Some webmasters are afraid it will not work, others are afraid it will cost too much money and the cost will outweigh the benefit. And then there are those who can’t seem to think up a link bait for the life of them. My suggestion is to first of all analyze the top competitors in your industry, figure out what they have, what they offer, what they want to offer, what their customers/users are saying and last but not least find out what they do NOT offer and how you could improve on their neglect.
Use this information against them… do they offer tools which are popular? Hire some people to go through the tool and find problems, find ways to improve on their idea and create your own tool with marked improvements. Be sure to go through forums, blogs and authority sites looking for professionals who will give you tips and ideas to use as linkbaits. Many will and reward them later with a free beta of the tool. Ask your users what they would like to see on your site, what does your site lack to make it the best site in the industry? Get feedback and then implement the suggestions if and when possible.
The same principles can be used for articles and content. Go through your competitors content and look at their articles, find flaws, find issues that they do not fully explain, find questions they don’t answer, find problems which are not answered but for which an answer is in high demand. Make use of their faults and write better articles…
On this note I should mention copy law and tell you to start articles and tools from scratch… don’t copy competitors word-for-word or you will likely get in a law suit and be in a bit of trouble
Be unique, appeal to the masses and you got yourself a wicked lot of magnetic power. If you need suggestions on a linkbait try our open Seo Experts Forum
Three-way link exchanges – This method does work and if done right Google will not be able to figure out very easily however many slip up on this and many three-way link exchanges go foul because they are careless. I think Google is beginning to look for patterns, patterns which will allow them to discount the value of three way links and perhaps penalize webmasters for even using such a method… if you do try it I recommend you watch each link in the exchange… alot of three-way link exchange services are offered by webmaster who use their own domains which in my mind is risky. Once Google finds out that a certain domain is a hot spot for un-natural link building don’t you think that any outbound links will be suspect as well? Don’t you think that domain will be watched closely?
I myself have not gotten into this aspect of things. I have seen sites get penalized badly from using this method and although I think it is quite possible to do it well and not get caught I don’t think it is worth the time involved… I think linkbaiting is much more beneficial and there is no risk involved with link baiting while three-way link exchanging is indeed risky.
One last thing on three-ways. Like most link exchanges three-ways tend to get back-burner link positions, hardly ever do you see three-ways between high authority pages. When such an exchange does occur I would venture to say Google would not have reason to look into it. Think about it, how valuable is a link if it is stuck on a links page among 100s of other links pages? Whether reciprocal linking or three-way linking I think the position your link and your partner’s link is placed will have a great deal of weight in determining whether that link has value or not. For one-way links this does not matter as much, Google still discounts the value of one-ways on such pages but for link exchanges Google can tell that there was nothing natural about it. Atleast that is my theory and so far it seems to play out in how Google works.
Paid links – Paid links are perhaps the easiest and fastest way for a webmaster – with money – to achieve higher positions in the serps. It does however carry risks and is costly… you may pay $5k/month for a number of links that a 10K linkbait would have gotten 100 times over… again we need to bring the cost / benefit ratio in to the equation. Is it really worth it? To the pros outweigh the cons? I honestly don’t think so. Paid links can be discovered by Google and are discounted to nothing…. also sites found to be selling paid links can and have been penalized and/or banned by Google. I also have reason to believe that sites whose primary source of link value is found in paid links have and are being penalized.
Having said that Google “can” find paid links I must admit they cannot find everything and alot of paid links have not and cannot be discovered by Google. Think about it… how would Google know a link was paid for? Lets see, perhaps if words such as “paid”, “sponsored”, “advertise here”, “buy a link” etc appear next to a given set of links, perhaps Google can use this info against them. But lets say that such indicators do not appear, lets say to all apparent purposes the link in question appears to be natural. How would Google know?
There is only one other way I have come up with that Google can and does find paid links… that is to go through sites that offer link brokerage services. Many of these sites can be viewed by anybody and anybody can see what links are being sold. I would think this would entail alot of manual work but there has been evidence to support this theory… not enough to prove it but enough to make it worth looking into.
There is of course those who report sites for selling/buying links and Google does follow up on these reports and does penalize sites submitted via such reports so the neighborhood watch has been enacted and it may be your neighbor who causes your paid links to be found out by Google… that is the only way I can see Google getting really good at detecting paid links but again what appears to be a natural link will likely be treated as such.
Spamming for links – It used to be quite easy to spam for links… it seems a few years back forums did have link value and until an seo contest destroyed any value forums did have, they were a great source of back links for many. Many people either manually spammed or had a automated program which did it for them. Unfortunately people still do it and even though there is much more spam protection for blogs and forums it does still get through and many links get posted un-moderated for what little good it does the spammer.
Most blogs now use nofollow on all blog comments so there is no value coming from them… many forums also implement this but even those which don’t will pass very little value as Google has pretty much banished them from passing value. So what good does link spamming do? Haha none actually… there are unsecured forms where links can be spammed and they will be posted without moderation and they will get some value… however because of the ease at which the form can be spammed it is likely that thousands of links will pile up pretty fast and that first link will be valueless.
This is why many sites notice a rise in rankings from spamming but over time they drop to nothing. This of course goes for link exchanging and three-ways as well… as more links pile up the value of your link goes down and down.
Link requesting – Still a method but many go about this so wrong… they write a letter and send it to 500 webmasters… some of them are smart enough to use the webmasters name on each letter but this has gotten a little old since there is software which is really good at finding that info and sending automated emails to 100s of webmasters within seconds.
Link requesting has indeed gotten a bad name, now most link request emails end up in the dump before they are even read. The only people who respond to these, are webmasters of the same caliber who also have a site which does not seem to be able to get links from any other method. Such people will respond.
But there is a method of link requesting that works and it works really well… I know I am pressing linkbait heavily in this article but I have to, it is the ULTIMATE LINK BUILDING METHOD and if my article is to be accurate I must push it. The best form of link requesting is when you have something to offer the requestee, when you have something worth looking at and when the email is personalized to each webmaster it is sent to. NO I do NOT mean changing a few words to make it sound “personalized”. I mean actually personalizing the email… also flattery works well. Flatter the webmaster, mention specific articles that have taught you so much. Then appeal to his pride by asking him/her to review a tool, service, product or content you have recently created and explain that you want a professionals opinion and that is why you came to him/her.
I would post what I use but I don’t use a template, I find the webmasters email and I start out writing by what I know of that webmaster. So each email I send out takes time and is personalized and believe it or not when the webmaster gets it the email actually looks real, like it wasn’t typed out by a robot and it actually makes the webmaster feel like he is worth something. That is the only way I have found to get through and actually get something out of a link request.
Now that we got an understanding about the major types of link building maybe I should give some tips on actually doing the link building part.
Act natural – What value do you think a link has if it looks un-natural? Very little in my mind… when link building keep this in mind, if the link looks un-natural maybe it is not worth paying for or reciprocating for. But keep in mind, when able to get one-way links you should not be afraid of penalization from having an un-natural link. As long as the page is indexed in google and there are not hundreds of links on that page you will get some value from that link.
Article publication – I did not go into article publication above so let me briefly give some pros – that may be hard – and cons of this method. The biggest downfall to article link building is probably the fact that the page your article is on will likely only have one or two links and those will be from the site it is placed on which means until or should I say if that page becomes more important and gets a few good backlinks the value you get from that link will be very small.
Also posting multiple articles to one site is not a good idea, it is a waste of good material(I am of course assuming its good material ) which could either be published on your site or even on other sites which would be much more beneficial in the long run.
My suggestion is to publish content on sites not article directories, find a site which wants a writer(some pay and give a link) and write some good stuff for them. This method usually is worth a great deal more and alot of times the value only increases as more people link to your article and as the site gets bigger.
Awards and medals – Gain an award and you will likely pick up links from a number of sites right off and as you feature your award it will also attract links. These awards can be for nearly anything but should be from prominent and respected websites in your niche.
Bad neighborhood links – Try not to affiliate yourself with such sites. Stay away from adult, gambling and related sites unless of course your site is in fact one of them. Even though I doubt Google will penalize a site just because it has links from bad neighborhoods I do think that a large percentage of bad neighborhood links can result in loss of authority and may even have a negative effect on your sites ranking. I think sites which have a few authority links should not have this problem but don’t play with fire… stay away from them as they will not be of benefit to you.
Create your own directories for links – Some webmasters will create a directory and use this directory to build links to their other sites. They do this by requiring either a reciprocal link… the user must link to Site B for a link on Site A(being the directory)
For this method to work the directory owner should host the directory site and the site being linked to on different hosts so that google can not associate them as being affiliated. Also you will need to build the directory upto a PR3+ to really get anybody interested in submitting. This method does work and can help you but again you have the same issue we discussed earlier… most links gained by this method are stuck on large links pages so you get very little if any link value. My suggestion to combat this is to moderate all link submissions before accepting… make sure it is worth doing.
Different C-class IPs is a good idea – Try not to acquire tons of links from sites in the same C-class… such as buying bulk links from one webmaster who may own multiple sites under the same C-class. Try to get links from unique sites, different C-class ips.
Directory submissions – Submit your site to Dmoz and Yahoo directory – even though it is $300 – but except for that I would not pay for any other directory submissions. If you can get them for free than that is fine although again I must reiterate that links which can be obtained so easily will drop in value quite fast and there will be no long-term benefits there. If you find high PR directory pages in a niche-specific directory then it may be worthwhile to pay a few bucks for a link there but I would be mighty careful as most directories are not worth paying for or even submitting to for free. Google is killing directories now days so I would steer clear of them.
Before submitting I recommend you do a lookup for both the directory domain and the page your link will/would appear on and make sure it is indexed… you can do this by searching for site:directorydomain.com – Google is breaking down on directories now days and I think the day is here that directories will become as valueless as forums.
Edu/Gov juice – Get links from .Edu/.Gov pages, many say they are not special except that they tend to have larger amounts of backlink power however I think it also has to do with Google giving them more authority. Whatever it is they are very valuable and if you can get some links from edu/gov sites you should definitely go for it.
Find high PR link partners and pay them off – I love this one and it works quite well… I am sharing it because most people won’t use it because they are afraid of wasting their money. But honestly it is one of the easiest methods to get links.
You have two options.
1. Manually go through Google or Yahoo and do searches to find high PR links pages. You can do this by searching for terms such as “inurl:links.html keyword”(substitute html for php/asp as well and drop the ‘s’), “keyword add link” etc.
2. Use a tool like Seo Elite which finds a ton of pages very fast, gives PR data, IP info, contact info and other useful tidbits. It allows you to look for pages with a set min PR or Alexa(if you want traffic) – I use this quite often and it sure beats manually looking up them. It finds the sites but I wouldn’t use it to send emails. I would do all that manually.
Once you find the sites – either method will work although the second is definitely worth buying – find the contact information and send them an email offering the webmaster from $2-30 for their link depending on PR and how many other links are on the page. Most sites who will accept link exchanges will accept $2-5 for a link instead and these links tend to be very valuable even though they are indeed on links pages. But make sure you do not do this on sites who accept free submissions without link exchange as they will be spammed and your link will be worthless.
You can also use this method for high authority sites by doing searches on Google using “site:authoritydomain.com keyword” to find pages related to your site. Once found contact the webmaster offering a sum of money to have a link on that specific page. For the first method a one-time price will do. For this method sometimes the webmasters want a monthly fee so you will have to determine if it is worth it. This is the best way to buy links though as Google can’t figure it out. Sorry Matt!
Getting away with paid links – Don’t pay for links on sites which use words such as “advertisement”, “paid links”, “sponsor”, “sponsor us for a link”. Such as words could be used to discount the value of links on the page and you may not get any search engine value out of the deal.
Interlinking your sites – I recommend you do so with caution. I also recommend you host each of your sites on a different C-class ip. Interlink related sites but try not to go overboard by interlinking all your sites, this can cause you problems you do not want to deal with.
Internal pages – Obtain links to internal pages over your home page… Google can determine patterns if the mass majority of your links are to your home page since most of the time the demanded material is not on the home page of the site but is on one of the internal pages. So vary your links going to internal pages as well as home page so that there are no patterns and the link love is spread across your whole site. I think this also helps establish value.
Language specific links – I find the most important factor in ranking in a language specific search engines is links from sites which are in that language. If you want to rank a page on a spanish engine you should get a few spanish links to that page. Keep in mind I do not recommend mixing sites… want to broadcast to the spanish population? Start a separate sub-domain(better yet another domain under their ext) and translate all your work for them.
Link life – This is a factor I speculate Google will use more and more to establish patterns in finding paid links. What is the average life-span of a link to your site? Do links to your site tend to last only a month or so? Do the majority of your links get recycled after a certain amount of time? Could this tell Google your either paying for links or your site is going downhill? Either way I can see only negative effects here. I would be careful about gaining short-term links, I think the long-term results may not be very good.
Natural selection – (Hey think I can rank for Darwin’s theory of evolution? Hmm lets see… ) – Obtain links in as natural a manner as possible. This is not to say that having an un-natural link or two will harm you but a number of authority natural links will establish your sites authority and I believe this is a major part of ranking for high competition keywords.
Pay for a review – Money talks and it is not that hard to find bloggers who will for a small sum blog about your blog/site and of course link to it. If you post on forums such as DigitalPoint and SitePoint you will find many. Again you will need to look at each offer and decide if it is worth accepting or not.
Reciprocal linking – Only reciprocate with related sites and do so with sites which will give you a link on a prominent page or atleast a links page with very few other links and ONLY related links. Google is getting better at this game and links pages containing links to anything are getting discounted more and more and you can indeed be penalized so be very cautious. Also check the site, make sure it is indexed and cached and make sure the page your link will appear on is indexed and cached… keep in mind pages which are dropped will sometimes still appear to have a PR.
Related links – Related links are worth much more than unrelated links and will be much more beneficial to your site authority. A PR3 related link can pass more value and help you more than a PR7 unrelated link. And please do not send me emails with graphs of how the Google PageRank works. I will ignore your rubbish, I have seen this and I know it for a fact. PR does not effect a sites positioning, relation does.
Quality means everything – Where is your link placed? Is it prominent on an authority page or is it stuck on some links page? Quality links placed prominently will be given more value than a link on a higher pr page which is not prominent and which is not an authority.
Vary anchor text – Don’t use the same link text for all link requests, link submissions or link exchanges. Vary them, believe it or not a variety of anchor text will improve your rankings better than if you use the same anchor text for all submissions. A varied link text gives an assumption of a natural state.
Seo myths or realities?
Gaining too many links at one time can cause penalties – This is not true. It can raise flags which can trigger filters such as the deceased(what I believe to be) sandbox filter however these are not penalizations and will not effect the long-term ranking in Google. The idea of this theory is that submitting to 100′s of directories can cause such a penalty… this is quite interesting since directories tend to moderate submissions over a period of 1-90 days so your 100 submissions could turn out to be only 1 every few days or at most a couple a day. I think we can safely say this theory is BUSTED!
Obtaining links from sites unrelated to my niche will harm me – Interesting theory but it ends there… there is no evidence to support this and it is illogical to assume google would penalize any site which had a link from an unrelated source. In fact most sites which are worth anything have many links from unrelated sources so this one is definitely BUSTED!
Reciprocal linking can get me penalized or banned by Google – This appears to be very true… I have seen sites drop like stones and for nothing can they regain their positions. They seem to get stuck around 950 or 31 in Google which appears to be a penalty IMO. Read a forbes article on how a successful jewelry site saw the wrath of Google.
If you start getting some authority links and then submit a reinclusion request they seem to reinstate most. Don’t hold your breath though.
While finishing this article I was looking at what others had wrote about it and I found an interesting article from SearchEngineLand which I found of interest for your guys so here it is: Quality Link Building : Social Links, Reciprocal Links and .edu & .gov Links
I hope you learned something from reading this “Ultimate guide to link building” and I hope that it is indeed just that. If you have questions or want an answer to a specific question not answered here please comment and I will add it to the list. Thanks for reading my blog!
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