and how they are used by the search engines to establish search rankings. Sections fourthrough six discuss research strategies aimed at helping you determine the most valuabletargets for link building in your particular niche or industry. The remaining sections (7-24) provide specific link building strategies you can leverage for your sites(s).Section IWhy Search Engines Measure LinksPageRank and Links as Votes:Larry Page and Sergey Brin publicly pioneered the use of link measurement as anindicator of search relevance when they created the Google search engine. The initialidea behind their legendary PageRank system was that a link to a particular page isequivalent to a vote by the linking page for the linked-to page.As the theory goes, by measuring not only the keyword relevance on a page, but also thenumber of “votes” it had, you could accurately determine which pages were consideredby the web’s users to be most valuable for the given search terms. Furthermore, linksfrom web pages with high PageRank would be more valuable (considered moreauthoritative and reliable) than links from low PageRank pages.This initial model, while revolutionary, didn’t consider the quality of on-page content,trust metrics or semantic relationships and was thus extremely vulnerable tomanipulation.SEOmoz homepage with Google Toolbar showing Page Rank 6:Improvements in Link Quality Scoring:Over the years all of the major search engines adopted the link-based ranking model withsome stylistic variation from engine to engine. The technology, quality and“intelligence” of the various search algorithms continually evolve in an effort to improvethe quality of returned search results.
Anchor text is now considered when evaluating the relevance of a given link to the givenkeywords. If a site about Seattle Boat Tours has lots of links pointing to it with anchortext written as ‘Seattle boat tours’, those links will provide greater value to the linkrecipient than links with anchor text such as ‘click here’ (at least for searches on “SeattleBoat Tours”). We will discuss anchor text in greater detail in the next section.Semantic attributes the of on-page text surrounding links is also analyzed. For instance,if a link to Seattle Boat Tours is in the middle of a page about theoretical physics as itrelates to the study of Scientology, that link won’t be considered as valuable as the samelink with adjacent content about Seattle, tourism, boating, etc.Seattle.gov tourism page, this would be highly relevant for ‘Seattle Boat Tours’Search algorithms also consider relationships between linked sites. By analyzing thingslike IP addresses, reciprocal links and domain registration information, the engines try todetermine if the links are valuable organic links, or if they are manipulative, artificiallinks created solely for ranking purposes.Links as Quality Control:By using the methods discussed above to measure link quantity and quality, the searchengines create a ranking system that is much harder to manipulate than one based solelyupon on-page factors. That is not to say, however, that page structure and actual content
are not evaluated. The link-based model simply places more importance on links basedupon the theory that only well-designed, content-rich pages will get high-value links fromreputable sources.Trusted Domains:Link factors such as anchor text, semantic relevance and page relationship certainlymatter, but perhaps no factor matters as much as the trustworthiness of the domainproviding you with your link. A single link from CNN or The New York Times is worthmore “link-juice” than dozens of similar links from no-name blogs and MySpace pages.Trusted domains have proven over time (ironically, through the acquisition of thousandsof trusted links) to be worthwhile and reliable sources of quality information about theirgiven subject matter. As such, when the search engines see that these sites link to youwhen discussing your area of focus, they pay attention. This tells the engines that areliable and trusted source thinks you are an expert and you offer content that’s extremelyrelevant to the topic.Think about it this way: If the Weekly World News runs the headline ‘Two-headedDragon Boy Born in New Jersey,’ would you take it seriously? No? What if the sameheadline was on the cover of Time magazine? In nearly everyone’s mind, the Time linkto ‘Two-headed Dragon Boy Born in New Jersey’ is far more valuable and credible thanthe same story from the Weekly World News.This is why we don’t go into a state of shock when we see bizarre WWN headlines everyweek in the grocery checkout line: they’re simply not reliable for anything other than alaugh. In the online world, the search engines use their artificial intelligence algorithmsto make similar determinations. Thus, 50 links from Moe-does-Mortgage.com is notnearly as valuable as one link from Bankrate.com or CNN’s money.com.This is a self-perpetuating process on the web. The more trusted, valuable links your sitereceives, the more trusted and valuable your site (and the links you give) becomes.Section IIAn Introduction to Link BuildingFundamental Properties of a Link:If you’re reading this (and you are) then chances are you know what a link is. As such,we’re going to skip the lecture on HTML and the structure of the Internet (it’s a series oftubes). What we will discuss are the important on-page and structural characteristics oflinks that can help make them most effective: anchor text, link location and link intention.Anchor Text:
Anchor text is the actual text that visitors click on to follow a link. Below are threeexamples of anchor text for a link to the SEOmoz homepage:1. For great info about search engine optimization, check out http://www.seomoz.org/.2. For great info about search engine optimization click here.3. Here’s a great resource for info about search engine optimization.Of these examples, both 1 and 3 have distinct advantages over number 2. Number twoprovides a link (which is good) but it offers absolutely no semantic value. SEOmoz isn’ta respected resource on “click” or “here.” These aren’t keywords or search terms anyonewould use to find SEOmoz, therefore there’s no keyword benefit conveyed by this anchortext.Example 1 does contain SEOmoz’s name (since it’s in the domain name). This helpssome, but chances are we wouldn’t need much help if someone were searching for‘SEOmoz’ directly. Note though that constructing concise, relevant URLs for the pageson your site can help, not only for links of this style, but for keyword relevance in searchengine spidering. If an article page has the URLwww.seattleboatours.com/article/121.html, it conveys no value about the content of thearticle, whereas www.seattleboatours.com/articles/holiday-cruises.html provides contextand relevance to anyone searching for “holiday boat cruises.”Example 3 is certainly the best of the three because it not only provides the link but italso offers additional semantic relevance. If the search engines see that a lot of links toSEOmoz use anchor text such as ‘search engine optimization,’ they will quicklyrecognize that other web pages think SEOmoz is a relevant source for information relatedto those keywords. Whenever possible, links that carry semantic value (such as example3) are preferable.URL Location:This refers to where in a site’s page structure your link is found: shallow or deep.Shallow links are links to your site’s homepage or top-level category pages. Deep links,on the other hand, are links to more specific pages such as individual articles, blog posts,tools or other content.Deep links are usually the result of people finding your deep page content useful andwanting to share it with their visitors. Search engines like these types of links; they’renatural and often more valid. Shallow links, when too prevalent, tend to look spammy tothe engines. If hundreds (or thousands) of sites are linking to you, and more than 80%link exclusively to your homepage, the search engines may cast suspicion on the“validity” of those links. Aggressive link builders would be wise not to abuse homepage-only linking. Keep in mind that this is much more important for larger sites since smallsites do not have much inherent depth.
You can check your deep link percentage by visiting Yahoo! and performing a linksearch. Type in the search as “linkdomain: www.yourhomepage.com” using yourhomepage URL.Yahoo! Site Explorer link data for the entire SEOmoz site and homepage only, respectively:In the screen captures above you’ll see that SEOmoz has 304,262 links to the entire sitebut only 32,034 to the homepage, “www.seomoz.org.” As such, almost 90% of links toSEOmoz are to deep content pages.Also important is the location of the link on the linking page. Are you being linked tofrom someone’s homepage, an advertising page or a relevant, high-quality content page?
Links from a link directory or advertising pages are often paid, reciprocal or otherwiseexternally influenced and therefore less legitimate than deep links from within actualcontent or more specific, topical pages.Conversely, the more popular, specific and well-linked-to the page is that links out toyou, the more valuable that link will be.Link Intention:What you should always keep in mind when considering the relative search engine valueof a given link is: how will the engines view this link’s value to searchers? What is thelinking page’s intention?If it’s a link indicating you as a source or a reference on a particular topic, the value ishigh. If it’s sending someone to you for more information or to buy something, it couldbe valuable depending on the needs of the searcher. If it’s one link of many in adirectory, it may be helpful (depending on the exclusivity and trust of the directory). Ifit’s a link influenced by money, relationships or other less trustworthy motivations,search engines will try to find algorithmic ways to prevent it from passing value. That’snot to say it won’t help your ranking now, but over time, engines have gotten better andmore efficient at measuring the quality and intention of link patterns.Section IIIWhy Build Links?As we’ve just discussed, many link building efforts in the SEO world are done toimprove a site’s search engine rankings: Links as votes, as trust, as rank-buildinginfluencers, etc. There are, however, other reasons to build links as wellGaining Direct Traffic:Oddly enough, search engine spiders aren’t the only ones that see links to your site. Webusers visiting sites can and (hopefully) do click on those links, generating direct traffic toyou. Once again though, it’s worth your while to focus on quality links from relevantpages. How often have you actually clicked on a link you found on an extremelyspammy, worthless page? If the original page is garbage, you assume anything it links tois probably garbage as well.It should come as no shock that humans passively analyze page quality when assessinglink value. After all, the search engines ultimately try to algorithmically reproduce theresults a human would provide if they had the time to editorially rate every single page inexistence.
As such, you will get higher volume and better quality direct traffic from pages that arenot only popular and highly trafficked themselves, but relevant to your content.Visibility, Branding & Influence:What happens when every time someone looks around online for information aboutboats, tours or Seattle they see not only links to your site, but comments about you inevery prominent blog on the subject? You become an authority in the field. Byparticipating in the community around your niche and building content worthy of linksand discussion within said community, you gain visibility, branding and influence.How you want your image to manifest though is entirely up to you. This is just one moreexample where quantity may be easy to come by, but quality is what really counts. Doyou want to have visibility as that guy who always has useful information, the oneeverybody should check out if they’re interested in Seattle boat tours? Or do you want tobe the Weekly World News of your niche, always complaining of a Loch Ness-likemonster in Puget Sound?As people within (and even outside of) your community begin to recognize and respectyour image and your brand, they will reference you and link to you as a resource. Linksbring traffic, links bring search results, links bring passion…make your users passionateabout your site.Section IVHow Do Search Engines Measure Link Quality?We’ve already spent a good bit of time extolling the virtues of high-quality links. That’sbecause search engines take great pride in their ability to have literally hundreds ofalgorithmic components to evaluate link quality. Some of the important factors theyconsider that we’ve already looked at include:• Visibility, Status and Trust of Linking Domain (Time vs. Weekly World News)• Semantic Value of Anchor Text (search engine optimization vs. click here)• Location of Link in Site Structure (Deep, Natural Links vs. Shallow,Spammy Links)In addition to these elements there are other advanced factors the engines apply whendetermining link value:Location of Link on Page:Page segmentation visually breaks a page into content blocks and—based on layoutconvention and actual content—determines whether or not the block contains internalnavigation, ads, useful content, etc.
Image source: Microsoft Research via SEOmoz.orgBased on this structural evaluation, links from content areas are considered more valuablethan links from other areas of the page. While search engines certainly are not perfect atimplementing this metric, the take-away is that it’s better to have links integrated intorelevant content (with good anchor text) than to have them stuck in a sidebar list or on thebottom of the page.Relevance of Domain & Page:Terms in your page URL and Title tags are extremely valuable when helping searchengines determine the nature of your page content. As we discussed earlier, using deeppage URLs that describe the page are valuable in this regard(www.seattleboatours.com/articles/holiday_tours.html). Search engines use semantics todetermine the likelihood of content relating to search query terms.For example, a Google search for ‘allintitle: dog & canine’ (which lists all sites with both“dog” and “canine” in the title) yields 80,300 results, whereas ‘allintitle: dog & shovel’yields only 50 results. Similarly, ‘allinurl: dog & canine’ (which lists all sites with bothterms in the actual URL) yields 15,500 results and ‘allinurl: dog & shovel’ yields zeroresults. While this example is painfully gratuitous, the point is clear: the engines knowthat if you search for ‘dog’, pages with the word canine in the URL or title are muchmore likely to be relevant to you than pages with the word shovel. Conversely a pagewith the term ‘shovel’ featured prominently in the URL may not be as reliable a sourcefor content with the keywords dog and/or canine.
There is a whole science behind semantic indexing, but all you need to know is this: Pagedomains and titles that offer semantic relevance to your content convey an impression ofreliability and relevance. Similarly, links to you from pages with semantically relatedcontent and or titles/URLs create consistency and relevance that the engines will reward.Visible vs. Invisible Links:All the links in the world won’t do you any good if the search engines cannot see them.Many sites use tactics to prevent the engines from following certain links on their pagesin an effort to avoid spam.Links embedded as java script, tagged with a nofollow command (rel=”nofollow”following the href URL), included on a page with a meta nofollow or blocked byrobots.txt may not be visible to the search engines and, accordingly, pass no link value.Before you expend too much time or effort building links on a certain site or page, makesure you will get credit for them from the search engines.Indications of Spam or Manipulation:While high-quality, relevant links will get you a healthy bump in search rankings,spammy, manipulative linking tactics are a good way to get your site flagged fordeceptive practices. If most of your links are from ads, linkfarms, domains you own or IPaddresses suspiciously similar to yours, the engines will take notice.Cheap link buys, reciprocal links and brokered links aren’t necessarily bad for gettingyour numbers up; but the engines can easily detect and discount a pattern of low-qualitylinks from irrelevant pages. All of the algorithm technology exists not only to reward allof the great content and links you’ve built, but to recognize the abundance of uselesspages on the web as well and keep it from influencing the search engine results pages(SERPS).This guide does not cover manipulative link practices in depth; rather, we will focus onilluminating tactics that will provide both short and long-term benefits.Section VSearching the Engines for High-Quality LinksNow that you understand the importance of attracting quality links, you’re almostcertainly wondering exactly how you’re supposed to find them. Fear not, dear reader. Inthis section we’ll look at how to identify quality links for acquisition (the process ofactually getting those links is covered later on).The most basic way to find valuable sites is to simply run searches on the major engines(Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask) for the keywords/phrases you’re targeting. The top 50-100 results obviously have some pull when it comes to those terms, making them good
candidates for link acquisition. There are, however, many more targeted options foridentifying solid links.Using Search Modifiers:All of the search engines allow you to perform advanced searches to identify pages whereyour keywords appear in page elements such as page title, anchor text, URL or body text.Using Google (although you should try these searches at all four major engines), let’slook at how the search results narrow for advanced queries for the term ‘blue suedeshoes’:Search Finds Term In Results Returned*“blue suede shoes” Anywhere on page 869,000allintext: “blue suede shoes” Only in page text (not title or URL) 859,000allintitle: “blue suede shoes” Only in page title 17,500allinanchor: “blue suede shoes” Only in link anchor text 12,200allinurl: “blue suede shoes” Only in page URL 3,090*Results numbers are only estimates and generally only useful for purposes of comparison.Using these advanced search modifiers will progressively narrow down the results foryour keyword searches, usually identifying pages that are more and more closely relatedto your topic. However, as the results narrow, the number of truly valuable pages alsothins out (i.e. the top one percent of 859,000 is 8,590 pages, but the top one percent of3,090 is only 31 pages). The top 30-50 results in both basic and advanced query searchesare usually strong link acquisition targets.Google results for the search ‘allintitle:”blue suede shoes”’:
Use ToolsThere are a few tools available that speed the link research process. When you havemany search phrases you want to target, these tools can save considerable time and effort.They also include links to searches for directories, blogs and sites requesting submissionsrelated to your keywords. We’ll talk more about these kinds of links later, but it’s nice toknow you can get the resources from these tools.• SoloSEO’s Link Search Tool (soloseo.com/tools/linksearch.html) provides anextensive list of links out to valuable advanced Google queries based on yoursearch terms.• We Build Pages’ Search Combination Tool (www.webuildpages.com/search/)provides a more concise list of advanced queries, but allows you to enter multiplekeywords at a time and returns results from Google, Yahoo! and MSN.• The SEOmoz Page Strength Tool (www.seomoz.org/tools/page-strength.php) willgive you an idea of how popular a page is and, thus, how valuable a link from thatpage will be. Any link from a page with Page Strength over 1.5 is typicallyworthwhile.• Aaron Wall’s SEO Book Tools Page (tools.seobook.com) has a rich set of toolsfor link research and beyond.By using these tools and the search methods outlined above, you can begin to compile alist of sites and pages you may want to try and get links from. In order to further refinethis list, you’ll also want to know which links are helping your chief competitors rankwell for your targeted keywords.Section VICompetitive Link Research
We’ve just discussed how to ask the search engines where they think the valuable linksare, but now it’s time to find out where your successful competitors are actually gettingthe links that are putting them at the top of the SERPs.Identifying Primary Competitors:As Sun Tzu said so long ago, “Know thy self, know thy enemy.” In order to compete forsearch results in your niche you need to know a couple of things: 1. Thy Self, i.e. theterms you want to rank for; 2. Thy Enemy, i.e. the sites that are already where you wantto be for those search terms.You should start your link building campaign by sitting down and listing the top 20 or so(do as many as 50 if you want) most competitive search terms and phrases that you wantto rank for. You may want to look at tools such as the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty toolor the SEO Book Keyword Suggestion tool to help you create your list.Once you have this list, search the terms at Google, Yahoo! and MSN, paying attention tothe top 20 results at each. Make note of sites that consistently rank in the top 20 for yourterms. Pay extra-special attention to those sites that consistently rank in the top five: theyare thy enemy. Now, let’s get to know them…Link Search Methods:Keeping with the Sun Tzu theme, let’s say your site is www.suntzu.com and a couple ofyour Holy Grail search phrases are ‘land war in Asia’ and ‘Chinese general’. Yourcompetitive research has shown that two of your arch nemeses are www.generaltsao.comand www.chairmanmao.com. How will you recruit their forces for your own quest ofSERP domination? Gather intelligence on what they’ve got that you want.First, find out where their links are coming from. You can perform direct link searches atGoogle, Yahoo! and MSN, although Google is essentially useless because theyintentionally give incomplete link data. Yahoo! and MSN tend to list more importantlinks ahead of less valuable ones and, thus, the top 100-200 links are the really powerfulones you want to focus on.To check direct links for www.generaltsao.com, you would perform the followingsearches:• At Yahoo! Site Explorer: linkdomain:generaltsao.como Shows all links to the domain generaltsao.com• At MSN: linkdomain:generaltsao.com – site:generaltsao.como Shows all links to the domain generaltsao.com, excluding links from thesite generaltsao.com• At Google (pointless): link:www.generaltsao.como Shows a small sample of random links to the page www.generaltsao.com
These searches, Google notwithstanding, will show you all of the inbound links to the siteyou’re searching for.On Yahoo!’s standard engine as well as MSN, you can search for keyword-embeddedlinks: those that use particular anchor text in links to your competition. You can run thesesearches for any or all of your key terms/phrases:• At Yahoo!: linkdomain:generaltsao.com “Chinese general” – site:generaltsao.com• At MSN: linkdomain:generaltsao.com “land war in Asia” – site:generaltsao.como Both searches find all links to the domain generaltsao.com that containthe specified anchor text (site excluded).Yahoo! and MSN also allow searches for extension-specific links and direct-path-to-inclusion links. The former are links with a specific type of domain extension such as.edu or .gov. The latter are links to pages where you can easily add your site for inclusionin a directory or list of some kind:• Y! or MSN: linkdomain:chairmanmao.com site:edu(edu can be changed to gov, com, org, net or whatever else you’d like to look for)• Y! or MSN: linkdomain:chairmanmao.com “submit site”(‘submit site’ could be replaced by several other common “path-to-inclusion”keywords such as ‘directory,’ ‘add url,’ ‘suggest a link,’ or ‘suggest site’)You can also search for hubs that carry lots of information and links about your area offocus. These sites are often easier to get links from as they already mention several ofyour competitors. Both Yahoo! and MSN allow multiple-competitor link searcheswhich will identify pages with links to both (or all) of your competitors, but not you:• At Yahoo!: linkdomain:generaltsao.com linkdomain:chairmanmao.com-linkdomain:suntzu.com• At MSN: (linkdomain:generaltsao.com linkdomain:chairmanmao.com)(-linkdomain:suntzu.com)o Both searches show pages that link to both generaltsao.com ANDchairmanmao.com, but NOT suntzu.comIf you’re desperate for something (anything) from Google; you can perform some clever,normal search queries to get an idea of domains linking to your competitors:• At Google: generaltsao.com -suntzu -site:generaltsao.com Shows pages with the keyword ‘generaltsao.com’ but not ‘suntzu’excluding pages from the domain generaltsao.com
• At Google: generaltsao chairmanmao –suntzu Shows pages with the keywords ‘generaltsao’ and/or‘chairmanmao’ but not ‘suntzu’.• At Google: chairmanmao -suntzu -site:chairmanmao.com Shows pages with the keyword ‘chairmanmao’ but not ‘suntzu’excluding pages from the domain chairmanmao.com• At Google: generaltsao "Chinese general" -suntzu -site:generaltsao.com Shows pages with the keywords ‘generaltsao’ and/or ‘Chinesegeneral’ but not ‘suntzu’ excluding pages from the domaingenraltsao.comBy applying several of the various link search methods outlined above, you should beable to get a very good idea of your competitors’ in-links and where you’ll need to focusyour efforts in order to vie for top rankings in competitive search terms.Now that you know what links are, why they’re important, how engines use them andhow to find good targets for them; it’s time to talk about how to actually get them. Therest of this guide will discuss the various avenues for acquiring links from the sites thatwill benefit your traffic and rankings.Section VIIThe Art & Science of Direct Link AcquisitionAsking for Links:Asking for links seems like it should be the easiest, most direct way to get them. In fact,it’s often the most difficult and frowned upon. As you can imagine, domains that have theability to give valuable links are bombarded constantly by pages of widely varyingquality begging for links. There are, however, a few ways you can increase your chancesof getting a favorable response to your link requests:As with any human interaction, people are more willing to help out friends than strangers.Spend some time participating in blogs and forums on sites that could help you. Getsome visibility and the powers that be will be able to put a face (or at least an avatar) to aname when you send an e-mail pitching your site.Your ability to become a high-profile participant on a site has something to do with yourknowledge of the subject (but the sites you’re targeting should be related to your nicheanyway, right?). Much more of it has to do with personal charisma and your ability tomarket yourself. Unfortunately, that’s something very difficult to teach and it’s definitelybeyond the scope of this guide. Without delving too deeply into How to Make Friendsand Influence People territory, it’s always advisable when endearing yourself to a webcommunity to project an image of humility, warmth, sharing, curiosity and honest (read:non-commercial) intent. Offer advice where you have it, ask questions where you’reinterested and even feel free to make an occasional joke if you’re funny.
Who/How/Where to Ask for Links:As you surf the web for potential links, youll often run up against sites where linkacquisition can be difficult. If the site doesnt provide a clear path to getting a link, dontbe discouraged, there are a variety of tactics you can employ, including:• Search for Other Outbound LinksIf you can find a page on the site thats linking out to other relevant sites, either asadvertising or direct referral, you can generally use that as a good entryway toyour link acquisition. When you call or email, mention your interest in beinglisted on that page along with their other outbound links - you can offer a trade inservices, direct payment or pitch the value of your content.• Look for an Advertising or Affiliate PageAny page that lists a contact for advertising or affiliates is ripe for targeting. Beprepared to pay for these types of links, as they are almost always part of a sitesmonetization strategy.• Check for a BlogBlogs are excellent sources for links, and can often be pitched with content(discussed in the next section).• Locate a Relevant Email AddressEmails for sales contacts and support are not nearly as helpful as websitemanagers, webmasters, directors of online operations or, in many cases, businessowners. You need to find someone who has decision-making authority about thecontent of the website, which in many cases requires an owner (in the event of asmall business) or a manager (in larger companies).• When in Doubt, Call a Phone NumberTheres no harm in calling whatever phone numbers you can find, asking to berouted to the person who handles website content or website advertising andmaking your case.• Be Friendly, Honorable & PersistentMany times when making link requests, youll get initial pushback (from un-returned phone calls and emails to flat-out negative responses). Your best move inthese cases is to be as genuine and affable as possible and search for a way for tohave the site owners make you an offer.The practice of finding a link contact can be arduous, but over time, youll become moreand more familiar with the format of websites in your industry. Depending on howvaluable or important you consider the link to be, it can be worth a good deal of time andenergy to negotiate an acquisition.Offering Compensation:Sometimes you may ask for a link and receive a convoluted set of conditions,reciprocations and other such hullabaloo in response. While you may want to go throughall of these hoops to get the link, at times it will be easier (once some sort of link has been
offered) to simply offer to pay for the link. How much you offer is up to you and shouldbe commensurate with the quality and value of the link. A fair price for a link could beanywhere between $20-150 per month depending on the strength of the site, wherethey’re linking from, relevance of content, anchor text, etc. Jim Boykin has written ahelpful article about link valuation on his blog.Targeting Content:Perhaps the most subtle and effective way to “ask” for a link is to create some content onyour site that you think would be of interest to the site you want a link from. After all,this is exactly what the search engines consider the intended use for links.If you write an article, build a tool, make a great design and send an e-mail to thewebmaster of the target site essentially saying, “Hey, I recently did a post/built a tool thatI thought you might find interesting. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it here. I’dappreciate any feedback you have,” there’s a good chance they’ll look at your contentand, if they like it, write about it and link to it. When writing this type of correspondenceit helps to be specific, introduce yourself as a reader of their site and contextually relateyour content to theirs.This is especially effective if you can create a piece of content relevant to a recent topicor discussion (either on or offline) in your subject area or a recent article by theindividual you’re requesting a link from. It should no longer seem surprising thatrelevant, topical, quality content is the most effective way to get quality links. Putting itin front of the right eyes just helps the process.Section VIIISocial Media Link BuildingSites where you build a profile, page, comment in forums or otherwise interact in a waythat allows for inclusion of information about your site and (more importantly) links toyourself are sprouting up like weeds all over the web. While many of them arecompletely useless; others can provide good exposure and even the occasional, valuablelink.Sites to Target:A comprehensive list of the most prominent social media sites, including descriptions andinfo on how useful they are from a marketing/linking perspective, can be found below.Each link will take you to the article’s analysis of the site. While the actual linking valueof most of these is relatively small, there are some, such as Wikipedia, that can beextremely valuable.1. Digg 16. Flickr
2. Del.icio.us 17. WikiHow3. Technorati 18. BlueDot4. Squidoo 19. StyleHive5. Netscape 20. JotSpot6. LinkedIn 21. Wetpaint7. Newsvine 22. Shadows8. Wikipedia 23. Yahoo! 3609. Reddit 24. Furl10. Ma.gnolia 25. Ning11. StumbleUpon 26. Frappr12. Shoutwire 27. The Best Stuff In The World13. Facebook 28. MySpace14. 43 Things 29. Yahoo! Answers15. YourElevatorPitch 30. RdiculousWhen built in concert and with style and substance, profile building can work quite well:You can gain lots of relatively neutral links and perhaps a few strong ones by buildingsocial media profiles. Be careful with theses sites as it’s very easy to get spammy withyour design and linking. It’s important to remember that you’re building a siterepresentative of your brand. It may not be viewed by many people, but those that doshould get a favorable impression of your site.A portion of the Squidoo profile for one of our clients:
Linking Methods:Social media sites essentially give you the opportunity to link to yourself from outside ofyour own site. You should always put links to your site in profiles that you build,whether they are business related profiles for you as an individual or profiles for yourbusiness itself.Submitting content from your site to places like Digg or Reddit gives you links on thosesites and, if your article becomes popular, can get you hundreds more links as other sitespick up, link to and discuss content they found on Digg. This is often called viral contentbecause once it catches on it can spread to lots of users very quickly.If you actively comment at sites, you can often include a link in your comment signature.These are usually not tracked by the search engines (except at Flickr) so they don’t giveany direct link-love. However, if other users like what you say, they may follow your linkand this could result in organic links. Seek out active blog and community discussionswhere link-dropping in context is permitted.Section IXLink Building with News, Blogs and FeedsNews, blog and feed directories, like social media sites, offer good avenues for exposureand a few easy links. This can, on occasion, result in major traffic and lots of valuablelinks; particularly if you have inspiring content that people want to read and share.
News Link Opportunities:If you have the time, manpower, writing skills and desire to do so; branding your site asan up-to-date, authoritative news source for your particular niche can have tremendousbenefit. News syndication sites such as Google News, Yahoo! News and Topix.net canbring loads of quality traffic and links to sites they consider authoritative enough to pickup for regular syndication.Even if you don’t qualify as a trusted news source for these news sites, you can still try toget your articles or press releases published on them, and gain all of the link-juice thatcomes along with it. Submitting articles to sites that are trusted sources for the newsfeeds could provide an avenue for getting your top-notch pieces picked up. You can alsoconstruct press releases for your important ventures and submit them to the online wireservices, which the news sites draw from. We’ll talk more about press releases a littlelater on.Blog and Feed Directories:You should always submit your site to all appropriate blog and/or RSS feed directories.At worst, it provides a few benign links and helps people find you more easily. At best,you can get tremendous exposure on popular directories like Technorati, Google BlogSearch, and Bloglines. These sites serve as the phonebooks of the blogosphere—makesure you’re listed.You can find a thorough list of blog and feed directories at TopRank blog.Tagging for Del.icio.us and Technorati:Both of these sites are incredibly popular and frequented by the tech savvy audiences thatprovide links by the truckload. If you aren’t tagging your content for inclusion andsearchability at Del.icio.us and Technorati, you could be missing out on some huge linkopportunities.These sites track how many people bookmark (del.icio.us) or blog about your content(Technorati). They’re both organized by tags which are essentially user-definedkeywords appropriate to the specific piece of content. By searching for your site, you cansee how many people are bookmarking or blogging your content as well as which piecesare getting the most attention.Tagging—at these sites and many others—allows users to search for categories of interestand find content that creators and users have tagged with relevant keywords. Manyplugins exist for most popular blogging software that facilitates automatic tagging in thecontent generation process. We highly recommend you use one of these automatedsystems as it’s an incredibly easy process that can make a lot of difference.
Six Apart has a good directory of tagging plugins and tools. Simple searches for taggingplugins for your blog software of choice will also turn up plenty of resources.Section XContent Building for LinksOkay, okay…you get it: The best way to get good links is to create good content. Enoughalready! Believe it or not, there is more to this. While good content will tend to get goodlinks, there are strategies you can use to build content specifically designed to get links.Searching for Content Gaps:If you’ve followed the advice up to this point, you’ve identified the major players in yourniche and you actively participate in forums, groups, posts and blog comments. In all ofthis research and activity you may start to notice certain trends and questions emerge. Ifyour peers or customers are wondering about a certain topic, wishing for a certainproduct or tool, or generally speculating about a particular aspect of your industry; theyare telling you exactly what kind of content they’d like to read and link to!If you are astute, clever and quick, you can reap huge rewards by creating content to fillthe gaps in what’s currently available. Give the people what they want; it’s really thatsimple. This doesn’t have to be life changing, industry revolutionizing content. It can beshort, it can be humorous, it can be tangential to existing material, it just has to bedifferent from what’s out there at the moment and it has to be something people haveindicated they’d like to see. Use the politician’s model: for every one person who takesthe time to voice their interest or concern in something, there are 10,000 that feel thesame way.If you see several people discussing how nice it would be if there were a tool that foundthe number of occurrences of the 20 most frequent keywords on a page, for instance, youcould build that tool and watch them flock to your site.Brainstorming Desirable Content:All linkworthy content doesn’t have to begin as a eureka! moment gleaned from a strayblog comment. You should regularly sit down and brainstorm content ideas.Don’t rule anything out in these sessions. Write down every bizarre little whim thatcomes to mind. While it may seem implausible at first, often you can repurpose ormodify the idea into something really great. Let your creative juices flow freely.Once you’ve squeezed every last drop of creative juice from your brain it’s time to focus,channel and filter everything. Are there ideas that are time-sensitive? What aboutconcepts that can wait for an appropriate bit of news? Which type of content is each ideabest suited to: Blog posts, viral marketing, featured articles, tools, press releases? Are you
sure? Is there a better way to execute the idea? Would the concept work better for othercontent you want to cover?You should look at every idea for both its concept/style (e.g. top ten list, how-to guide,article, tool, etc.) as well as its content/subject matter (e.g. pirates, ninjas, computerviruses, pirate viruses, ninja computers, etc.). These are building blocks, feel free to mixand match.Concepts, Tactics and Styles:There are certain concepts that tend to work particularly well for attracting attention andlinks. As we’ve said, you can plug different content into these style-templates inhundreds of different ways. Some of the most effective and popular concepts forpresenting content include:• Web Tools: handy applications that perform, streamline or aggregate normallytedious tasks.• Widgets: embeddable code or images people can put on their page to calculate orpresent data (often output from a tool). Browser plugins fall somewhere betweentools and widgets.• Embedded Content: videos, podcasts, images…any cool, interesting orinformative multimedia content on your page can be very popular.• Beginner’s Guide to…: This can be serious or tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a popularand easily digested format.• How to…: Much like a Beginner’s Guide.• Top 10 Ways to…: Actually, lists of any length or manifestation are not only easyto build, but universally popular.• Surveys: They’re interactive, they’re anonymous and they give instant feedbackfor people to comment on. (We suggest Wufoo.com for easy-to-make forms)• Polls: Same as surveys. (We suggest Polldaddy.com for free polls)• Contests: Everyone loves to win things and/or be recognized as the best. Giveaway something (anything) or offer an ego-boost to one or more lucky winnersand you’ll get attention yourself.• Multiple Expert Opinions: Gather a panel of experts and get them to talk aboutsomething. If they offer support of conventional wisdom, you’ve providedconclusive proof! If they fly in the face of conventional wisdom, you’ve made thesky fall! If they disagree, the sky might be falling!• Interviews: Much in the vein of expert opinions, interviews can be even better ifyou include them as a video or podcast. Keep in mind that the more well-recognized or famous the participant, the more links you’re likely to receive.• Encyclopedia-style Articles: Can’t find any experts? Nobody has a well-definedopinion? Create your own! Become an authoritative source to explain an obscureor confusing topic. Then make a page for it on Wikipedia and link back toyourself.• Awards or Recognition: Create a series of awards or superlatives for your fieldand hand them out. This works best once you have an audience, but everyone will
want to receive it and those who win will link back to you to acknowledge thekudos you’ve given them.Capture of Top 10 Most Popular Stories on Digg – Notice numbered lists at the 2, 4 and 7 spots:Linkbaiting & Viral Media:Linkbaiting is the concept of creating content primarily for the purpose of gaining links.This is an incredibly effective link building strategy and is relatively simple in concept,but not always easy in execution.Large social media and bookmarking portals such as Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, BoingBoingand others are widely read by tech-savvy audiences that tend to be more than willing togive out links to content they find valuable, interesting or amusing (most of the conceptsabove are usual suspects). Getting your story or tool on the front page of Digg could beworth hundreds of links in just a day or two.Any potentially viral content (content that makes its way quickly around the web by wordof mouth or, more appropriately, word of blog) can make for good linkbait. Duediligence is required to figure out what tends to gain traction at different sites and then
designing something you think will be popular with a portal’s readers. Be warned: gettingon the front page of these sites can result in thousands of visitors per hour. Make sureyour server can handle the load or your visitors will be greeted with various errors insteadof your brilliant content.Rand very succinctly outlined the four stages of a successful linkbait campaign in hisarticle on the Yahoo! Publisher Network blog:Stage 1: Linkbait LaunchThe content is released, shared with prominent bloggers, and submitted to portalslike Digg, del.icio.us, Reddit and Netscape.Stage 2: The Long Tail of LinksIf the content gains traction and visibility at widely-read sites, medium andsmaller outlets and personal blogs will likely point to it, and RSS feeds of the linkand content will spread across the Web.Stage 3: Residual Traffic and AttentionEven after the initial buzz from your successful linkbait campaign dies down,your site’s traffic may stay on a slight increase due to a “linkbait bump” thatkeeps users circling back to your site.Stage 4: Search Engine RankingsThe massive influx of links will cause a direct boost of the link popularity of thecontent piece, as well as an overall boost in global site popularity—and searchengines tend to reward links with rankings.Section XILeveraging Partnership NetworksThis is pretty simple: as with any business relationship, you and your friends orassociates can trade or deal in things of value for each other’s mutual benefit. Links,content, traffic and revenue are all things of value, so get creative and start making deals.Content Sharing:If you create a great piece of content and let somebody else use it, protocol dictates theyhave to give you a link crediting you as the original source. If somebody wants to blogabout your content, same thing holds true. If you and a partner agree to occasionallymention or share each others’ content, you can not only increase each others’ visibility,but build quite a few reciprocal links.
Keep in mind that you should be careful about who you do this with. If their site isgarbage, not only will you have to deal with their sub-par content, but their links will nothelp you much. Additionally, if you give out lots of links to bad sites, it can hurt thevalue of your links and your site. You should also request that ‘noindex’ and ‘nofollow’meta tags be used when your content is published on another site in order to avoidduplicate content issues with the search engines.Meta robots tags for ‘noindex,’ ‘nofollow’ and various permutations thereof include:<meta name="robots" content="index,follow"><meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow"><meta name="robots" content="index,nofollow"><meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">Revenue and Information Sharing:Much the same as with content, if you partner with someone, you can trade revenue on aproject, data or information for links. Anything you have that is of value, whether it beactual money or competitive intelligence, is of value to someone else and worth a link (orseveral).Cast a Wide Net:With any of these partnership tactics you should be careful of drinking too often from thesame well. Reciprocal links between you and another site are fine, as long as they don’tappear manipulative to the engines. Search engines view habitual reciprocal linksbetween domains as attempts to spam and less legitimate. As such, do some networking,cast a wide net and partner with lots of different people. It’ll not only benefit your linkvalue and rankings, but your industry profile as well.Section XIIDirectory SubmissionsDirectories are handy because anybody worthy can get into them. Directories are alsoonly marginally useful because anybody can get into them. Since you are somebody, youmay as well get yourself in as many directories as you can. They not only provide links(some valuable, some less so) but they increase your online presence.Inclusion Strategies:First, be upfront about the type of content you offer. Give an honest, thorough,compelling description of your site: make people want to check you out, but be able todeliver on their expectations. To use the phonebook analogy again, nobody wants to callfor pizza and get a mortuary. When submitting to directories, make sure to vary anchor
text and try to use your keywords in the description and title fields as naturally aspossible.The more valuable and applicable your site is within its directory category, the morevisitors (and potential customers and/or linkers) you’ll receive. Additionally, much likesearch engines, directories tend to promote the most valuable listings higher on the resultspages. You should also try to maintain a relationship with the directory. Update yourlisting as needed and feel free to e-mail them about getting a better or higher listing(especially if you’ve made major changes or seen a big jump in rankings or traffic).Submit Yourself Here:A few of the best directories to target as far as getting valuable links are probably thefollowing:1. Yahoo! Directory: The Yahoo! Directory is the biggest and oldest directory on theweb, and one of the few directories that can send direct traffic. While the $299.00annual fee may seem steep, a PageRank 8 link is a pretty valuable commodity,especially when it can bring a lot of associated traffic.2. DMOZ: The Open Directory Project (DMOZ) is a free, volunteer-run directory.Google and many other sites pull directory information directly from DMOZ. It’sa Page Rank 8 link and it’s totally free. What are you waiting for?3. Starting Point: This general directory lists new sites on the same day they’resubmitted and users can vote to promote your site. The $99.00 submission feegets you yet another PageRank 8 link.4. Business.com: A huge business-related directory. Mostly intended for B2Bproducts and services. PPC sites receive preferential listing, other listings arealphabetic. $199.00 per year for a PR7 link.5. ExactSeek: This is a relatively large meta tag-based search engine. No specificfocus per se, but it is free and PR7. For around $12.00 you can get a featured, top10 listing for your selected keywords.6. Best of The Web: One of the oldest web directories around, BoTW provides asolid PR7 link for $69.95/yr or $149.95 one time. Sites are reviewed relativelyquickly and listed alphabetically by category.7. Librarians’ Internet Index: A fairly selective, but free, PR8 directory. They willonly include sites with quality, freely available content.Strongest Links has a complete list of hundreds more web directories you can submityour site to. Keep in mind that PageRank is a very rough approximation of value and,while we mention it as a quick and dirty metric, it’s far from the most importantconsideration when valuating a link.SEOmoz on the Yahoo! Directory:
Topic/Industry Specific Directories:For many content areas there are industry-specific sites and directories you shouldconsider submitting your site to. For example, lawyers may want to join Findlaw andfilm and television professionals or productions should build profiles at the InternetMovie Database. Do some research to find sites and directories appropriate to yourniche.While we’ll discuss it more in later sections, local organizations and directories such asthe Better Business Bureau, Citysearch and local newspaper sites can also be extremelyhelpful in building powerful links.Section XIIIArticle Writing & SubmissionThere are dozens of sites that exist solely or primarily to host the content of others andmany give links back to their content providers. The biggest and most popular sites willaccept material on a wide range of subjects and often have a solid reader base.While this may seem like an easy way to get links, many of these sites get flooded withspam, so be sure to only submit quality, relevant content and check out each site to makesure it’s of a tone and quality appropriate to your brand and your image.Some of the better sites to submit to include:• Idea Marketers - http://www.ideamarketers.com/writers.cfm• Buzzle.com - http://www.buzzle.com/secure/become-editor.asp• EBooksnBytes - http://www.ebooksnbytes.com/articles/submit.shtml• Article Central - http://thewhir.com/find/articlecentral/suggest.asp• Go Articles - http://www.goarticles.com/ulogin.html• EzineArticles - http://ezinearticles.com/submit/• AMAzines - http://amazines.com/• Article City - http://www.articlecity.com/article_submission.shtml• BPubs.com - http://www.bpubs.com/cgi/add.cgi
• Business Know-How - businessknowhow.com/newsletter/articleguidelines.htm• WWIO - http://www.certificate.net/wwio/ideas.shtml• About.com - http://sbinformation.about.com/library/blsubmission.htm (note, thisis just of many places on the site where you can submit articles - choose thesubject that best matches your site)• NetterWeb.com - http://www.netterweb.com/articles/• Simply Search 4it - http://www.simplysearch4it.com/article/addart.php• Vector Central Marketing - http://www.vectorcentral.com/articles-form.html• Learning Folder - http://www.learningfolder.com/SubmitArticle.aspx• Knowledge Bed - http://www.knowledgebed.com/submission.html• Article Insider - http://www.articleinsider.com/start.php• Articles that Sell - http://www.articlesthatsell.com/submityourarticle.htm• Smart Ads - http://www.smartads.info/articles/• Writing Career - http://www.writingcareer.com/freearticles-submit.htmlThe sites listed here tend to be rather reputable and pass good “link juice” to the writersof published articles. They are more selective than many free-for-all directories, but theirlinks are also more valuable.If you want quick and dirty links from anything-goes sites, Ebizstartups has a huge list ofhundreds more article submission sites along with a free tool that allows you toautomatically submit an article to a few hundred different sites simultaneously. Whilevery easy, we don’t particularly recommend using these kinds of services as the links(when spiderable) tend to be very low quality.Section XIVForum & Community LinksWeb forums and groups are the modern incarnation of the old bulletin board and Usenetsystems. If there is a topic, hobby, interest or niche you can think of; there’s a forum (or5,276) on the subject. Forums for your niche are great places to build your reputation andimage as well as get links. They’re also a prime resource for finding content in the formof questions and topics to answer or discuss on your own site.Some forums will allow you to include a link in your profile or your signature, but theseare often ‘nofollowed’ or use a redirect (meaning the engines won’t count the links).Even if you’re not allowed to include links, it’s often worthwhile to mention URLswithout hyperlinking them. Even if you don’t get credit for the link, people who like whatyou have to say may visit and link to you on their own.This networking aspect of forum communities can be very powerful. As you’ve likelynoticed, many effective link building strategies require you to develop and make use ofrelationships. Forums are where you can build those relationships. As such, you shouldbe true to yourself but always be aware of your brand. In fact, its can be a good idea touse your URL or brand name as your profile name.
Remember, don’t be a shill. You’re trying to build relationships and visibility here.People will be more interested in what you say and do if you’re likeable or at leastinteresting, preferably both (although controversy can have its own advantages). Don’t bethe Amway salesman that people avoid because he’s always trying to push his product onyou. Many forums will immediately ban folks who shill for their sites or services.General Web Forums:There are thousands of web forums out there. The majority fall into a wide variety ofniches that range from semi-broad to, “really, someone’s into that?” Some of the biggestforums, however, are general topic groups with enormous user bases. There are, withoutquestion, many areas on each of these where you will find relevant space to participate.Some of the biggest general forums are:• Zenhex - http://www.myyearbook.com/zenhex/index.php (614,032 users)• Offtopic - http://forums.offtopic.com/ (158,492 users)• Host Board - http://www.hostboard.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi (122,047 users)• Something Awful - http://forums.somethingawful.com/ (87,237 users)• Living With Style - http://forums.livingwithstyle.com/ (68,885 users)• Tilted Forum Project - http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/index.php (48,000 users)• Urban 75 - http://www.urban75.net/vbulletin/ (33,521)• General [M]ayhem - http://www.genmay.net/ (28,150 users)• People’s Forum - http://peoplesforum.com/ (12,711)• JLA Forums - http://www.jlaforums.com/ (3,560 users)Boards in the Technology section of Offtopic:Specific Topic Forums:Find a few or a few dozen forums in your niche and poke around. One nice thing abouttopical forums is that you know the readership is interested in your topic and therefore
more likely to check out your site. There are far too many to list here, but you canalways do a search for forums in your arena (use a search like “Indian Recipes” + forumat Google) or look at the Big-Boards forum directory.Mega Forums:There are some sites that are so big and so diverse that they have their own gravitationalpull. With millions of users and countless thousands of posts every day, these are theconversation hubs of the internet.• Google Groups (formerly Usenet) which has tens of thousands of different groupsrepresenting millions of users. There is almost no topic you cannot find onGoogle Groups. If there is, go ahead and start a new forum on here for it.• Craigslist Forums offer extremely active running commentary in 54 forums oneach of their sites for every major city in the US (and many around the world). CLforums are extremely conversational and it’s easy to get involved and get to knowother users. A great bonus is they’re almost all local, allowing for the possibilityof in-person business or social networking as well. This is very good for location-specific businesses such as brick-and-mortar retail or service firms in a particularregion.• Yahoo! Answers isn’t a forum per se, but you can get on there and marketyourself as an expert and a valuable resource in your areas of focus. With over 65million user-generated answers to over 7 million user-submitted questions,Yahoo! Answers is definitely a good place to strut your stuff and build an imageas an authority in your field. Bonus: great answers to interesting questions cangain featured status and/or get reposted by users, which translates into links.A new question at Yahoo! Answers:Section XVPublic Relations & Press Releases
In the SEO and link building world, public relations is mainly a function of reputationmanagement and your presence in media and blogs as we’ve discussed previously. Theother key component of online public relations is the Press Release. Some folks feel theneed to issue a press release any time they so much as have an errant thought about oneof their sites. This is not, I repeat NOT, a good idea for a couple of reasons:Releases do not Equal Links:When you submit a press release to a PR site such as PRWeb or PRNewswire (both paidsubscription sites costing around $200) you get as many links as you give yourself withinthe release you submit. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, when you consider how easy itwould be to spam press releases in this manner, you better believe that both the PRpublishers and the engines are aware of it. Thus, these links are fairly worthless.As such, don’t issue a press release at the drop of a hat. You’ll accomplish very littlelink-wise and dilute the relevance of important press releases you may one day want toissue.When Releases DO Equal Links:A press release can build you lots (LOTS!) of links if it gets picked up by a popular newssource or blog. As such, carefully plan any press releases as if they were extremelyprecious linkbait—you don’t want to waste a good idea on an inadequate press release. Ifyou have some great tool, news, analysis or anything else you think is newsworthy inyour sector, you can issue a press release but you should craft it very carefully.The nutshell here is that press releases can be extremely valuable as long as you focusintently on quality over quantity. There is both an art and a science to crafting pressreleases and optimizing them for maximum reach—people get degrees in it and PR firmsmake billions on it.There are hundreds of books, articles, programs and websites out there that offer adviceon how to write good press releases. They can range from good to useless. I’drecommend reading several dozen of the top rated releases at PRWeb to get an idea ofhow to structure an effective press release then try your hand at writing a few forpractice. Write about some mundane event and see how much you can make it pop.Keep in mind that the gatekeepers to your audience are experienced, jaded news editorswho see tons of stories and press releases; you need to find an angle and a style that willengage them. Once you get the hang of it, you may be ready to craft your own releases oryou may still want to enlist the help of a PR firm. They aren’t cheap, but they can beextremely valuable if you choose the right one and use their time efficiently.A few good beginner articles on writing press releases:• Marketwire’s 11-Step Guide to writing a press release.
• The Writing World Guide to Writing The Perfect Press Release.• Publicity Insider offers a Sample Press Release Template.• PR Web has a thorough list of Press Release Tips.Section XVICharity & DonationsSo you like all these new links you’ve been getting and the huge increase in businessyou’ve seen. How can you give back and get even more of those tasty links you’vebecome so greedy for? Make a charitable donation.Often times, by making a donation to charitable group—whether it be a donation ofmoney or time/services (maybe do a little site design or linkbuilding work for them)—you can get them to link to you from their homepage. Depending on the size and reach ofthe organization, these can be extremely powerful links.When targeting these types of links you should focus on finding organizations that arerelevant and related to your area of business or, at the very least, oriented to the localcommunity in which you are headquartered. Make a fair contribution and be sure to askfor a link specifically. Also consider scope and scale: While you may have a bit of a hardtime getting in touch with and getting a link on the national Humane Society page, youcan probably get a link quite easily on your state chapter’s page or the site of localorganization such as Guide Dogs of the Desert, a Palm Springs-based guide dog service.The always insightful Aaron Wall has some excellent tips on how to use advanced searchqueries to find appropriate organizations that give out donor links. Perhaps the mostnotable of his observations is that cheaply or easily obtained donor links will quicklybecome overrun by spam sites and get discounted by the engines. Due to thisphenomenon, the best charity links are often those obtained from limited-time, one-shotfundraising events.Section XVIIPay-Per-Click – Buying Traffic for LinksPay-per-click (PPC) ads on popular sites or through programs like Google’s Adwords, ifdone correctly, can be an effective and relatively inexpensive way to build link volume.With PPC, you bid on certain keywords and the search engine serves your ad whenpeople search for those terms. Each time someone clicks on your ad, you get billedwhatever your bid amount was. This can range anywhere from a few cents for somekeywords to $10-20.00 or more for extremely competitive keywords.
By using inexpensive keywords and advertising for a free tool, article, guide or otherresource, you can gain traffic to your content and simply ask for links on the page.Identify Appropriate Keywords:Since you are using PPC ads to get links, not sales, you don’t want to spend a ton ofmoney on them. Use keywords focused for someone searching sites for research orinformation on a topic. In fact “_(topic x)_ research” is often a valuable and inexpensivekeyword. You can use the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool to help find good, cheap,effective keywords.Ad Copy and Pitching a Link:Write your ad copy carefully. Be sure to make it clear you’re offering free tools orinformation, you’re not selling something. This can be an experimental process at times.You may find your initial ad copy doesn’t get much activity but slight changes cangreatly increase your popularity. Feel free to experiment, but keep track of what’sworking and what isn’t. Also keep an eye on which keywords get you the most links.Once you get people to your page, be straightforward about asking for a link. You cansimply add a sentence somewhere on the page saying something to the effect of, “If youfound this content useful, please link to it at (URL goes here).” In place of or in additionto the URL you can provide a pre-formatted hyperlink with your chosen anchor text.You can even provide a button or link widget and instructions for lazy MySpacers andothers who may want to link but aren’t sure how.Here’s an example from a post on Drivl.com. You can see that they not only providecopy ‘n paste link code, but also buttons to add the story to various social bookmarkingsites. This makes it extremely easy for readers to link to this post:Tagging and Linking Tools at the bottom of an article on Drivl.com:
Search Network vs. Content Network PPCWhen you bid on PPC ads through Google, Yahoo! or other ad services, you can chooseto place ads in the Search Network, the Content Network or both. The Search Networkencompasses ads served on search results pages (SERPS), whereas the Content Networkincludes all of the web pages serving ads from the provider.Search Network Ads for ‘Car Insurance’ on Google:Content Network Ads for ‘Car Insurance’ on Automotive.com:
Results, ROI and cost-per-click can vary greatly between Search and Content networksfor the same terms. The only way to really know where your PPC money is best spent isthrough careful tracking of your results and consistent tweaking of your ad spend tomaximize ROI. It’s also worth noting that the Content Networks for different ad servers(i.e. Google as opposed to Yahoo!) will have different partners. It’s worth investigatingthe partner sites your ads will serve to before choosing where you want to spend yourContent Network PPC budget. In general, buying Content Network ads aren’t particularlyvaluable for link building. Unless you can see and test your results, we recommendfocusing primarily on Search Network ads.Section XVIIIWeb Design & Development PortalsWeb designers are an incredibly valuable audience in that they will give links freely andusually have multiple properties on which to give them. One of the best ways to get theattention of the design community is to build an aesthetically and/or technicallyimpressive site that others will admire. Getting your site featured on a design ordevelopment portal may not bring the sheer numbers of visitors as some of the socialmedia sites, but they are incredibly valuable, high-quality visitors for linking purposes asdesigners often share and link to designs they find inspiring.Programming Forums:Design sites and forums exist for any of the various web-programming languages you canthink of, and they can be a great source for links. For instance, if you have fun littleAJAX applications on your site, or you’ve built some cool maps mashup, you could getfeatured in an AJAX forum. A couple of the big ones are Ajaxian, and Google MapsMania for Google Maps mashups. If you’re good at building in AJAX (or some otherlanguage), poke around and see what’s popular; perhaps you can build some gallerybait.
CSS Galleries:If you design your pages using CSS (if not, why?), CSS design galleries can get you lotsof attention. Again, looking at what’s popular can not only help you know what will getyou featured on these sites, it can actually help you with your design quality. Somepopular CSS galleries include:• CSS Remix – www.cssremix.com• Unmatched Style – www.unmatchedstyle.com• CSS Vault – www.cssvault.com• CSS Beauty – www.cssbeauty.com• CSS Drive – www.cssdrive.com• CSS Elite – www.csselite.com• CSS Import – www.cssimport.com• Web CRÈ ME – www.webcreme.com• Design Meltdown – www.designmeltdown.comGetting featured in one of these galleries can result in dozens of links and severalthousand visitors, most of them web-savvy. As with all of your visitor-attracting links,make sure to have content available that keeps them coming back (and linking to you) formore than just the design.Yahoo! Site Explorer search showing Drivl.com with over 2,800 CSS-related linksDesign Portals:Design portals tend to feature highly stylized sites where function is secondary (perhapseven tertiary or quaternary) to form. The sites on the portals are often Flash-heavy, ultra-hip and very unique. The traffic they offer is low in relevance but voluminous. If you’recreative, clever and skilled enough to measure up and get your content into one of thegalleries, you can get dozens or even hundreds of high-quality links in just a few days.Check out those listed below as well as many others that are out there:
• RES72 – www.res72.com• BD4D – www.bd4d.com• NetDiver – www.netdiver.net• PixelSurgeon – www.pixelsurgeon.com• Origin Online – www.originonline.co.nz• Australian InFront – www.australianinfront.com.au• Creative Behavior – www.creativebehavior.com• Surfstation – www.surfstation.lu• For The Masses – www.forthemasses.net• Experimental Magazine – www.experimental.ro/front/index.php• Moluv – www.moluv.com• Kaliber 1000 – www.k10k.net• Design is Kinky – www.designiskinky.com/index_main.html• Design Taxi – www.designtaxi.com• Media Inspiration – www.mediainspiration.com• Plastic Pilots – www.plasticpilots.comSection XIXLocal Link OpportunitiesAn often overlooked but valuable and relatively easy aspect of link building is theacquisition of local links. Links from associations, directories, clubs, mapping databases,etc. related to your physical, geographic location can not only help you build linkvolume, but increase your presence in the community, help business, and drasticallyimprove your rankings for local searches.Finding Local Directories:It’s pretty easy to find more local directories than you’ll know what to do with byperforming a few simple searches such as “(city or state) business directory,” “(city orstate) local directory,” or anything else you’d like to try. If you’re in a suburban or ruralarea, you may want to broaden your search to include your county or nearby metropolitancenters.You’ll likely get a mix of free and paid-inclusion directories. Some may have certainquasi-political affiliation (such as eco-friendly, gay-friendly, equal-opportunity) andothers will be completely unaffiliated. Since the number and variety of directories willvary greatly depending on your location, it is necessary to conduct research to see whichlocal directories will be best for your individual business.Be prepared to spend between $10-$1000 for inclusion into local directories. It’simportant to determine whether value exists before investing in membership simply forthe link value.
Regional/Municipal Government ListingsCity, county or even state websites often have directories or listings of some sort wherethey link to businesses that meet certain qualifications for inclusion. These qualificationscan range from simply being within the geographic area covered by the associatedgovernment, to minority or women-owned businesses. If your local governments havedirectories on their sites that you can qualify for, by all means submit your site.A few examples:City of Seattle – Greater Seattle Business DirectoryCity of San Francisco - Local/Minority/Woman Owned Business DirectoryNew York City – New York City B2B DirectoryYellow/White Pages:Got a phone number? List yourself in the white pages and/or yellow pages of all phonecompanies that offer service in your area. Submitting your company online cansometimes allow you to get a web listing (including a link) without publishing in thepaper version. Be sure you’re submitted to national online phone directories (includingthe following) while you’re at it:• AnyWho• Internet 800 Directory• Switchboard• WhoWhere• Yahoo People Search• SuperPages• Yahoo Yellow PagesCommunity Oriented WebsitesLook for websites that focus on businesses or information in your geographic and productarea. These sites are likely to be very interested in writing about you and/or linking toyou. Are you a web designer in Wichita? Chances are there’s a site or two out thereabout exactly that subject. Find them, court them, get links from them.A Wichita Web Design Directory found after the example was written
Better Business Bureau:You should consider listing your company with the Better Business Bureau (membershipcosts around $350). Often you can list with national, regional and local chapters. This isbeneficial not only for the links (BBB is Page Rank 9), but also for the reputation of yourbusiness. Organizations such as the BBB will sometimes allow members to put badges,icons or seals on their sites indicating that they are trusted, secure, endorsed, etc. Thiscan be very valuable in establishing trust, especially if you’re an online retailer.Chambers of Commerce:Regional, state, county, city and neighborhood chambers of commerce often charge a feeto join. They’re good for a link or two in chamber related business and memberdirectories, as well as networking and service benefits for your company. Determine ifthe link alone is worth the fee and be careful to ensure these links are spiderable by theengines.Local Directories on Search Engines:Google Local and Yahoo! Local provide free (and upgraded) business listings. One ofthe greatest benefits to these listings is that you will possibly show up at the very top ofsearch results for your keywords for anyone using an IP address in your area. In order toprevent fraud, online registration is usually followed by sending a confirmation ID to aphysical address that must match the registration.Sample local results for ‘Seattle Pizza Delivery’ at Google
Business and Social Clubs:Membership and affiliation with local chapters of social or business clubs like Rotary,Kiwanis, Elks, Masons, Eagles, etc. could get you links on their websites if they have amembership directory. Keep in mind that you should only affiliate with clubs you’recomfortable being associated with.For example, this Rotary Club chapter in Massachusetts has a page of links to localbusinesses and websites.Local Libraries:Websites of some local libraries have resource links to local businesses for variousproduct/service categories. Others, like the New York Public Library’s Directory ofCommunity Services or the Seattle Public Library, don’t link directly but do haveextensive listings for local organizations, consumer sites, phonebooks and all of thethings you’re looking to submit your company to. Even online, libraries are perhaps themost valuable and overlooked resources for local information. Look for links todatabases, web sites, directories, local information, etc.Section XXPolitical AssociationsMuch like donations to other charities, contributions to political organizations and/orcandidates can result in links if you ask or negotiate for them. Keep in mind though thatstaying on topic here will be a two-way street: you should only affiliate with relevantcauses you’re comfortable being associated with, and be aware that they’ll look at youthe same way before linking to your site.Once again, while big, national organizations get a lot of attention and would probably bethe most valuable links, you may have better luck approaching the organization and your
link request through local chapters. While your state chapter of the ACLU may gladlygive you a link, the national chapter may be a little more reluctant (or expensive).There are many types of political organizations you can give to, covering just about anyparticular view you have on any given issue. Some examples:• Individual Candidates: National, state or local candidates from Republican,Democrat or third parties may be able to give you links among their donor lists.Keep in mind that the visibility (or even existence) of losing candidates’ websiteswill be limited after the election.• Political Parties: You can donate to the Democrat, Republican, Green,Libertarian, or any number of other political parties. Within each there are oftenseveral election committees (such as the Democratic Congressional CampaignCommittee) all of which you can give to separately if you’d like. As always, thebigger the fish, the bigger a hook you’ll need to get something (like a link) back.Hence, local parties are often more effective in this regard.• Political Action & Lobbying Groups: Like the ACLU, groups such as MoveOn,HRC, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, Amnesty International, ChristianCoalition and the NRA are big, visible, national political organizations. Oftentimes they have local chapters that will be more accessible. Finding niche groupsor local organizations that are relevant to your business area can be particularlyeffective when lobbying for links. Groups campaigning for wildlife, ecology,transportation, energy, net neutrality, privacy rights or anything else you can thinkof, may be more likely to give valuable links to business donors in their field,especially if you’re willing to offer quotes for their press materials.Content that addresses a focus issue of a political organization or candidate can alsoresult in links. For instance, the screenshot below shows external links from the ACLUto articles about Public Video Surveillance:
Section XXILink BrokersLink brokerages function in a few different ways but all offer the same service: selling orrenting you links. The quality of the sites, the links they sell and the prices vary greatly,as do the effects those links can have at the search engines.Renting Pages:Sometimes you can contact the webmaster of a high-quality, relevant site and negotiate tobuy or rent a single page on their site. If a site is large enough, one deep page out of thethousands on their site won’t really be visible, but the links you give to yourself can beextremely valuable.If you’re clever and creative, you can even find ways to sell or trade links to other sitesfrom the page you’re renting. Make sure the content on the page is relevant and you canprobably slip in a couple dozen links without them looking too spammy. Rented pagescan also be valuable if, when focused correctly, they help you rank well for competitivequeries your primary site is lacking in.Link Network Buys:Link networks (also known as link farms) are networks of pages that all link to each otheror pages filled with spam links. While buying links from a link farm is certainly a costeffective way to get lots of links, they are extremely low quality and highly frowned uponby the search engines. Renting or buying links from link farms may get you a temporary
boost until the farm gets banned and their links carry no value. Your association withsuch link networks may also result in your site being penalized by the engines.A quick not about discounted links and penalties: when links are discounted, they nolonger pass page rank. That is to say, they don’t help you at all; they may as well notexist. When a search engine penalizes you, it actively lowers your rankings.Punishments can range from the so-called “minus 30 penalty” to sandboxing to outrightbanning.Review Sites:Sites like Review Me, Sponsored Reviews and Pay Per Post allow you to buy a reviewabout your site on a relevant blog. Ranging in cost from about $30-$300, this can be aneffective way to get links and traffic. A purchase of an article about your site on a well-written, highly relevant blog with good readership can bring you quality traffic as well asthe links that come with it.Keep in mind that writing a great article or building a useful tool can get you reviews inhundreds of highly trafficked blogs for free and a lot more links to boot. For instance, theSEOmoz Page Strength tool alone has over 2,000 links from highly reputable sitesincluding this review from Search Engine Watch, arguably the most influential blog inthe Search industry. As such, it can be wise to first reach out to bloggers directly, thenuse paid reviews later if you have trouble gaining traction.Section XXIIDirect Link BuysLink brokerage firms such as Text Link Brokers, Link Worth and Text Link Ads will sellyou links on established pages for a monthly fee. The fee can range anywhere from $25-1000 depending on the quality of the link and the Page Rank of the linking page(although Page Rank isn’t the best metric when considering valuation). Buying thesetypes of links can be very expensive, but if the ROI is there, they can be worth everypenny in enhanced rankings and visibility.Most text link sellers will allow you to specify your desired anchor text and some willallow you to provide a description so the link can be made more relevant. Links are oftencategorized by subject matter (and Page Rank) so you can find links that will be mostrelevant to you.It must be noted that, while buying high-value links can be beneficial, there is a potentialdownside: Some link brokers identify the domains or even URLs of their link inventoryon easily accessible, spiderable pages. The search engines do not look favorably uponpurchased links and, as such, may devalue, penalize or potentially ban sites usingbrokered links. Be careful about the way your broker displays their inventory and watch
your results carefully to make sure any purchased links are accomplishing what you’repaying for.Section XXIIIBecome a Product/Site ReviewerYou can build quite a few links by reviewing sites or products yourself. Sometimes youmay have to register or get approved to write reviews, other times it just requires creatinga profile. It’s pretty simple, write your reviews objectively and honestly and link toyourself in your byline or signature. Here are some sites you may want to considerwriting reviews for:Alexa – Look at new, popular or up-and-coming sites and write reviews for them(reviews fed from Amazon for traffic rankings, DMOZ for web directory).DMOZ – You can apply to become an editor for DMOZ and review, categorize anddescribe newly registered sites.Amazon – Write product reviews and/or comment on products.Epinions – Write product and store reviews.TripAdvisor – Write reviews of destinations, hotels, restaurants and attractions.Granted, these links won’t usually pass a much search engine value, but they will add toyour link numbers and, if you review products/sites in your business area, will contributeto both semantic search relevance and your personal visibility.Section XXIVAutomated Link Building (aka Link Spamming)Back in Section VI we discussed Link Search Methods. Link Spamming is the process ofbuilding a program to automatically spider sites for direct-path-to-inclusion links andthen automatically submitting your site to them.It’s possible to build lots of links very easily with this method, but it’s also a good way toget your domain banned from the search engines. Don’t forget that search engines lookat ownership and past activity when considering trust value and PageRank. Not unlikeyour credit score, if you get banned for spamming with one of your sites, it couldinfluence other domains registered to you for quite some time.Section XXVLink Tracking & Success
Now that you know tons of ways to build, beg, buy and steal loads and loads of links,let’s discuss some tips for tracking your link building efforts and making sure they’regetting the results you want.Using a Unique Term to Track Your Footsteps:Once you’ve done some extensive link building, you may want to go back and see justhow many links you created. A linkdomain search will tell you how many links you haveto your page or domain, but (hopefully) most of them won’t be those that you builtyourself.A good strategy to allow you to trace your steps is to use a unique identifying word orphrase every time you build a link manually (social media profile, review, comment,directory listing, etc.). Often times the e-mail address you use for link building will workfor this. Just make sure beforehand that there are no results in the search engines for yourchosen term. This way, when you search for firstname.lastname@example.org, you know you’rethe only person responsible for every occurrence of that term.Measuring New Links via Analytics:There are a variety of web analytics programs you can use to track more data than you’llprobably ever need for your site. You should absolutely use an analytics program totrack your site activity, especially during a link building campaign. Some popularproducts include:• Omniture• WebSideStory• Indextools• ClickTracks• Google Analytics• Webtrends• CoreMetricsIt’s extremely important to track the traffic coming to your site in several ways:• Who’s sending traffic: Where is your traffic coming from? Which links aremost effective, especially at sending converting traffic? If you don’t know this,you won’t know where best to focus your linking efforts in the future.• Who’s giving new links: Which domains are sending you traffic that’s creatingnew links for you? Is that story you got on Digg bringing in hundreds of newlinks or are you getting more from that PPC ad you wrote?• Where do the links go: What pages are new links pointing to? Is that numberconsistent or do you have spikes on certain pages? Is there a particular type orpiece of content that gets consistent, steady links? Is there a type that gets a hugeamount and then falls off?
Sample of Indextools traffic analytics for SEOmoz.org:Tracking Progress at the Engines:As well as your internal analytics, you need to watch the engines to see if all of youreffort and the links you’re getting are moving your rankings in the right direction:• Watch rankings over time: For both competitive and non-competitive searchterms, you’ll want to keep an eye on how your site ranks. Be sure to watch forparticular terms where you have a noticeable lead or lag from your otherrankings.• Correlate new inbound links: If you see your rank for certain keywords rise,you’ll want to look at your analytics again and find out which links are helpingthat word. If you can duplicate those links for related search terms, they may giveyou a similar boost.
• Temporal link boost: A big jump in new links (such as from successful linkbait)can give you a temporary jump in the rankings which will soon be corrected ifnew links don’t continue to appear. Be sure to follow-up successful content withregular updates to keep readers interested and returning.Review the Link Search Methods in Section VI. Now that you have lots of links, applythose methods to your own site (rather than your competitors) to see where you’re gettinglinks from for various search terms.Final ThoughtsIn lieu of a formal conclusion, weve provided a short list of some of the most valuabletechniques and advice to take away from this document. If youre searching for the mostcritical elements to include in a link building campaign in a short form, you can refer tothis list first, then find the relevant explanations and examples in the paper:1. Link building campaigns have three primary targets - search engines (for higherrankings), visitors (for traffic) and readers of other sites, who may not follow yourlinks, but will be "branded" by seeing your site mentioned in prominent, trustedsources.2. Search engines are very savvy about how they measure the quality and value oflinks - the more natural and editorial your links appear on the sites and pages thatpoint to you, the more likely they are to provide a high level of value. Importantpoints to remember include - relevant anchor text; logical, semantic placement;getting links on domains that have high levels of visibility at the engines and ahigh trust from their topical community.3. Acquiring links can be a time-intensive and difficult task. Its important to focusyour efforts on the links that will benefit your site the most, and to be diligent insearching for ways to acquire the links you need to rank well.4. Link acquisition tactics vary widely, but its most important to start with the sitesthat rank highest at the major engines for the terms and phrases youre targeting.These sites and pages will provide the greatest value in helping your achieve highvisibility, solid traffic and better rankings.5. Using social media for link building is one of the best quick ways to achieve agood boost. Leverage the sites that offer profile creation and user-generatedcontent to give yourself an edge over less savvy competitors.6. Content is one of the greatest sources for link acquisition in both the short andlong-term - not only should you build content that is link-worthy and targeted fora likely-to-link audience, you should also make sure that your entire site is thebest it can be to encourage passer-bys to link and share as they find valuethroughout the site.7. Simple link building tactics like directory submissions, forum & community links,public relations through press releases, donation links, PPC ad buys, politicalassociations and others can provide extra link weight to a campaign.
8. Be careful in buying links from link brokers or in large quantity. Verify value andtrust in the seller, and remember that the search engines have a specific eye outfor manipulation via paid links.9. Local & regional link directories, search engines, yellow pages and organizationsoffer terrific value to those who can take advantage of them - even nationalwebsites can use their headquarters or regional offices as a way to grow a locallink profile.10. Track the success of your link building efforts religiously. Through link tracking,you can determine areas of weakness and opportunity. Measuring your resultscan show you areas of your site that could use re-enforcing or improvement, andilluminate links that provide particular value or relevance (in the visitors theysend or the rank boosts they provide).We hope that youve derived a great deal of value from this document. It is our intentionto see that everyone who reads it will come away with a better concept of how to engagein a productive, valuable link campaign. Below, weve linked to a few of our favoriteresources on link building, all of which can be used to gain more advanced knowledgeand to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in link work.Additional Resources on Link BuildingEric Ward - One of the webs very first link builders, Eric is famous for working on thefirst link requests for Amazon.com. Today, hes a world-reknowned expert on the subjectand authors illuminating articles on his experiences every few weeks at his blog -LinkMoses. (http://www.ericward.com/articles/index.html)Aaron Wall - SEOBook is one of the most respected websites on the subject of SEO.Aaron often covers link building topics in the SEO Tips section of hissite(http://www.seobook.com/archives/cat_seo_tips.shtml). A few of our recent favoritesinclude - Finding the Most Powerful Links(http://www.seobook.com/archives/001940.shtml), Finding Link Sources & BuildingTopical Authority Links (http://www.seobook.com/archives/001930.shtml), ProofGoogle Loves EDU & GOV Sites (http://www.seobook.com/archives/001816.shtml),Hard Answers are Easy Links (http://www.seobook.com/archives/001802.shtml), and101 Ways to Build Link Popularity in 2006(http://www.seobook.com/archives/001792.shtml), which Aaron co-authored with notedexpert, Andy Hagans.Michael Gray - At Graywolfs blog, you can hear from one of the most opinionated andintelligent people in the web marketing world. Michael has dozens of great articles onlink development (http://www.wolf-howl.com/category/link-development/), all with histrademark humor and wisened approach.Todd Malicoat - Known on the web as "Stuntdubl," Todd provides impressivelyresearched, highly valuable discussions on how to link build(http://www.stuntdubl.com/category/link-development/) in even the most competitive
arenas. A few of Todds posts bear individual referencing, including, Training LinkDevelopers on the Link Building Cycle (http://www.stuntdubl.com/2006/10/17/link-cycle/), 12 Different Types of Links and How to Get Them(http://www.stuntdubl.com/2006/08/21/link-types/), and The 5 Minute Link Value Test -6 Link Quality Indicators (http://www.stuntdubl.com/2006/05/10/link-test/).Lee Odden - Lees Online Marketing Blog is a well-read source of industry news andfrequently features compelling discussion on link acquisition tactics. He has a specificcategory of link building based content (http://www.toprankblog.com/category/seo/link-building/) that link builders will find wholly engaging.Jim Boykin - Credited for giving regular link builders the title of "link ninjas," Jims site(http://www.jimboykin.com/) is one of the best and most focused resources for linkbuilding. Jim also runs a variety of excellent tools that can help SEO analysis and linkbuilding efforts at his companys website - http://www.webuildpages.com/tools/Brian Clark - Copyblogger (http://www.copyblogger.com/) is one of our favorite sites forlearning the ins and outs of great content writing, an ancillary, but critical part of anysuccessful link building campaign.