There are many ways of building links and I’ve created a detailed list of all my favorite methods below. But firstly, you’re probably wondering…
Why build links?
Here are my reasons:
Reason #1: Links help your search engine rankings
In the past, search engines would base their rankings on on-page factors, like keyword density and information in your meta-tags. Of course, this was extremely open to abuse by internet marketers and spam artists who all wanted their websites to be at the top of the search engines. People would ‘keyword stuff’ their pages by putting in piles of irrelevant words at the bottoms of their sites (sometimes in white text on a white background) just to get a higher ranking on lots of search terms.
Since the sites with genuine content often weren’t bothered with search engine optimization, they sunk to the bottom of the results pages. This all presented a bad experience for the poor users, who might search for “dog training” and end up at a porn site.
Links play another important role in your rankings: They help to determine which words you will rank for. If another site links to you using the anchor (link) text, “pumpkin pie recipe”, then they’re saying that your page is relevant to “pumpkin pie recipe”. You have one vote for “pumpkin pie recipe”. If you get a lot of links/votes that use “pumpkin pie recipe” then the search engines will think your page is very relevant to that topic, and you’ll find yourself ranking well for “pumpkin pie recipe”.
Reason #2: Links can bring you more traffic to your website
A lot of website owners are struck by what I call “search engine tunnel-vision” when they start optimizing their websites. If a link isn’t going to help their search engine ranking for one reason or another, they don’t want to know about it.
It pays to remember what your goal is, though: You’re trying to get more traffic to your page. If you can get a link from another site that will give you more traffic to your site (even if it doesn’t help your search engine rankings) then it’s a good link! In some ways it can even be better traffic, particularly if the other site is relevant to your site.
Here are some commonly asked questions about link-building:
Q: Should I have all my links pointing at my homepage, or should I get links to other parts of my site?
A: If you only ever had links to your home page it might look a little suspect to the search engines. Usually if you’ve got interesting content on your site, people will link directly to that content, not to your home page. So when you’re building your links, try to get a good percentage of them (about 30%+) pointing to your internal pages. This is known as “deep linking”.
Q: Are all links equal? Is there something that makes some links better than others?
A: Not all links are created equal. Higher quality links give more benefit than low quality links. Link quality is determined by four main factors:
- The status and trust factor of the domain that is linking to you (e.g. cnn.com vs. some random directory site).
- The visibility of the link on the webpage (i.e. Is the link at the top of the page? In the middle? At the bottom? Is it one of 3 links on the page? Or is it one of 75 links?)
- The relevancy of the anchor text (e.g. ‘Dog Training’ vs. ‘Click Here’)
- The location of the link in the site structure (i.e. does the link come from a home page, a prominent inner page, or a deeply nested, hidden page? Are the links to your website always pointing to the home page, or are they often linking deeper page?)
Where do you find high quality links?
There are many places to gather links from and I’ve created a detailed list of all my favourite methods below:
#1: Find out which sites are linking to your competitors’ websites.
In my books this is the first and most obvious place to start. Sites that are linking to your competitors are probably going to be interested in linking to you as well, (provided your site is as good as your competitors’ sites, of course!).
Use Traffic Travis’s Backlink Checker tool on the top-ranked sites for your keywords. See who is linking to them, and then contact these sites to see if they’re interested in recommending your site to their readers too. Perhaps the links come from directories, in which case you can submit your site as well. Perhaps the link isn’t free, and you have to sell out a little cash to get your site linked to. In any case, you know that these links are helping your competitors get the top ranked spots in the search engines, so chances are good that the links will help you too.
#2: Build or provide top-quality content
One of the best and most effective ways of getting links from another website is to create some unique, high-quality content. Not only will you attract links naturally from other sites, it also makes it a lot easier to ask for a link if you can provide some sort of benefit for the other site’s visitors.
You might also try offering to write a unique article for the other website in return for a credit or a link. That way you’re offering them something valuable, and you get a valuable backlink. This kind of link is good because you’ll probably be one of just a few links on the page.
#3: Social Media Link Building
There are a lot of different social media sites on the internet these days. These sites are great for both click-thru traffic and helping your search engine rankings. Some of my favourites are:
- Wikipedia (very good if you can get links from here)
There are many, many more of these sites out there. They don’t all work in the same way, but they can all help.
With Squidoo, for instance, you can build a page full of information on your chosen topic. These pages are typically well-received by the search engines. You can earn money directly off your lens, or use it to point to your main site.
If you can create some interesting or timely content on your site and submit it to Digg, you might find yourself facing more traffic than you know how to handle when your site makes the front page.
With 43things you can tap into targeted niche markets full of people who want to do or learn something. Start up a blog on this site and join in conversations with other people, then watch the traffic begin to flow.
The key is to provide useful content to these places. Spamming social networking sites is usually a pretty bad idea.
One tool I really like is Twitter. Google loves Twitter as well, and if you set up a Twitter profile and begin “twittering” (posting mini-blogs or status updates) then you’ll find the Googlebot crawling all over it. This is great for getting your sites indexed in the search engines, or letting the search engines know when you add new content to your page or your other social networking sites. Just Twitter it, and they will come!
#4: Link building with blogs and feed directories
It’s a really good idea to submit your site to all relevant RSS feed and blog directories. It is a great way of getting more exposure.
Popular directories include:
- Google Blog Search
#5: Building content to get links (Link baiting)
You could call this the “if you build it, they will come” method for building links. Simply create a good site with useful content, or an interesting tool, and people will naturally want to link to it.
If this seems like hard work, think about the amount of time and money you’ll spend buying or trading links. What if you could put that time and money into building a tool, and then got all your links for free?
Content that is created purely to attract links is often called “link bait”. Here’s a list of types of “link bait” from Wikipedia:
- Informational hooks – Provide information that a reader may find very useful. Some rare tips and tricks or any personal experience through which readers can benefit.
- News hooks – Provide fresh information and garner citations and links as the news spreads.
- Humor hooks – Tell a funny story or a joke. A bizarre picture of your subject or mocking cartoons can also prove to be link bait.
- Evil hooks – Saying something unpopular or mean may also yield a lot of attention. Writing about something that is not appealing about a product or a popular blogger. Provide strong reasons for it.
- Tool hooks – Create some sort of tool that is useful enough that people link to it.
- Widgets hooks – A badge or tool, that can be placed or embedded on other websites, with a link included.
Don’t underestimate this method, it’s a VERY good way of gaining one-way links.
#6: Directory submissions
Submitting your site to directories is an easy way of getting links. The links aren’t usually very good quality, but it’s a good place to start.
How to submit to directories:
You can pay someone to submit your site to 100+ directories (manually) for as little as $15 if you use a source such as SubmitEdge.com, or do it yourself .
The reason you need to do it manually (as opposed to using the automatic submission services and software that you’ll see around) is because most good directories won’t accept automatic submissions.
What to write in your directory listings:
Keep in mind that it’s the anchor text that matters for your search engine rankings, and that directories will usually create the anchor text out of whatever you give as your website name or title. So if I wanted to add my SitStayFetch dog training website to a directory, I might submit the following:
Dog Training with SitStayFetch
Contains in depth information about how to train your dog including a free 6 part mini course, comprehensive ebook, videos, bonuses and an email based consultation.
Directories often ask that you don’t just list a bunch of keywords as your title, since it’s not particularly meaningful. In this example I’ve managed to work my “dog training” keyword into the title, but I’ve also included my product name so that it doesn’t look spammy.
I recommend that you vary your directory submission anchor text a little to make it seem natural to the search engines. I also recommend that you use your keywords in the title field as naturally as you can — Don’t just stuff your titles with keywords!
How much does it cost to submit to a directory?
It varies. Some are free, some require a small payment, some require a large payment, and others ask that you include a reciprocal link. I don’t really recommend going with reciprocal linking directories (you don’t get as much benefit as a one-way link, and if the directory engages in behaviour the search engines deem to be “unseemly”, you might end up getting penalized by association), but some of the most valuable directories require payment and (if you can afford it) can be very good investments if you’re going after some particularly competitive search terms.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Yahoo.com—$299/year, but many sites I submit to Yahoo end up getting top-3 results in Yahoo over time.
- ExactSeek.com—$12 you can get a top 10 listing.
- Dmoz.org (free) — DMOZ is in an open content directory project that organizes Website listings across the Internet. Its name derives form directory.mozilla.org, which was once its original URL. The directory is maintained by volunteer editors and serves directories of the leading search engines, including Google, Yahoo! Overture, Alexa and more who use its titles, descriptions and category metadata.
- Stpt.com—$99 submission, another good directory to be linked from.
If this looks expensive, don’t worry — there are many free directories you can submit to as well. Even if you just stick with the free sites, you’ll still get a lot of backlinks. Often it isn’t really necessary to fork out for paid directory links when you’re going after less competitive terms. (For instance, if I tried to tackle “dog training” head-on, it’s pretty competitive. If I step sideways and go after “how to train a German Shepherd”, however, I would find it much easier to rank highly.)
#7: Article Writing & Submission
Article sites like ezinearticles.com are another good place to get backlinks. You can submit your own articles to these directories, with links either inside your article or at the bottom of the article in what’s called an “author box” or a “bio box”.
Not only do you get one backlink then and there from the article directory itself, these sites are also places where website owners come to find free content for their own sites. The website owners can take your article from the article site and publish it on their own site, so long as they keep your bio box (and all its links) intact.
What does this mean for you?
It means that by submitting one article to an article directory, you could end up getting hundreds of backlinks when your article is picked up by other websites.
IMPORTANT: Write quality articles!
It’s important that you write relevant, good-quality articles for these directories. Firstly, the article site moderators might reject your article outright if it’s particularly poor. Secondly, other webmasters won’t use your article if it’s terrible, so you won’t get many backlinks. Thirdly, by creating good, unique content, you give your article a chance for ranking highly in the search engines. Yes that’s right…. your article can be picked up by the search engines. You might even find that it outranks your real site! This is great because people will click through to your site from the article, but only if they’re interested in what you have to say — another reason to write good, interesting articles!
There are hundreds of article sites out there, here are some of my favorites:
I strongly recommend that you submit your articles to these article sites manually with a tool like Article Submitter (which also comes with hundreds of article sites pre-loaded, so you just have to plug in your article and go), or pay someone like Submit2Edge to submit them for you.
Much like with directory submissions, automated software might not work very well because many article directories block these tools. (Article Submitter isn’t an automated software… it just streamlines the process!)
#8: Local Link Opportunities
Submitting your site to any relevant local directories can provide valuable links and may help you to rank higher in regional searches.
For example, if your business is located in New Zealand, you should submit your site to http://www.nzs.co.nz
Or if you are in the US, you might submit your site to your local Chambers of Commerce, or to the Better Business Bureau.
#9 Link brokers and purchasing links
It is possible to rent links from other websites, but be careful: Google is starting to clamp down on people caught buying links. The red flag is often raised when you rent a link for a period, and then your link disappears when you stop renting it.
I personally prefer to purchase permanent one-way links rather than renting.
You might also try this new angle on link purchasing: Paying a blogger to write about your product or website. This can be a great way to get relevant links. Sites like ReviewMe can arrange these deals for you.
#10 Forum & community links
Interacting in public forums and communities can be a great way to get links to your site. Many people engaging in forums and blogs will post links to their website in their footer or profile. So long as you’re contributing to the community in a positive way and not just spamming… these links are usually well tolerated.
Unfortunately these links aren’t the best for improving your search rankings. Many sites implement “nofollow” tags on their links, which effectively blocks the search engine spiders from counting the link as a vote, or passing on PR. (Note that this is true for Google, but other search engines might not pay much attention to “nofollow” tags, so the links might still help your rankings in those search engines.)
The real benefit with forums and communities lies in getting targeted traffic actually clicking through on your links. If you’re a genuine contributor to the community, people will be interested in what else you have to say. You might find that this offers your business a bigger boost than slogging away on your search engine optimization.
#11 Press releases
If you have something very newsworthy going on on your website, then you may wish to consider submitting a press release about it. If it gets picked up by major news organizations like cnn.com, this can be a very powerful source of links and visitors.
#12 Donations to charity
Some charity websites have extremely high PR in Google, and many of them will give you a link from their home page or another high PR page in exchange for a generous donation.
#13 Social media and Web 2.0 links
We’ll look at this strategy in more detail tomorrow, but in short you can gain a large number of links from sites like www.squidoo.com, simply by setting up your own presence there and linking back to your main site. As with most things, you need to create some good quality content for your Squidoo (or similar) site, but this can be a very powerful tactic since these sites are often highly regarded by the search engines.
#14 Private blog and article networks
I really like this method of gaining high quality relevant links because you have the ability to access sites and links that very few of your competitors will bother with.
There are some good quality blog networks out there: Portal Feeder, for instance, has over 50 blogs in its Blog Network. If you’re a Portal Feeder member you can write a relevant blog post and submit it to the appropriate blog(s) in their network. You can get some really good backlinks to your site through these posts. It’s a particularly good way of getting deep links to your content.
That’s it for now. Glad to know what you think about backlinks.