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I’ve been fortunate enough to write over 275 blog posts across a variety of different SEO blogs, some have been successful, others have had more a lead balloon vibe. Often you have no idea beforehand which ones are going to work.
But one pattern I’ve been able to discern is people love in-depth blog posts. So inspired by great posts, like Aaron Wall and Glen at Viperchill’s long-form posts, I wanted to produce my link building opus of as many ways I could think to build links for here on Econsultancy.
So below are some of my top tips that cover off pretty much every way you can go about building links...
1. Guest posting. Everyone and his dog has a blog these days and the challenge that they all face is how to regularly produce content that will interest and appeal to their audience. This difficulty however, is an opportunity for anyone looking to build links to a website. Find some one with the need and fulfill it.
I could never hope to do this topic as much justice as ViperChill’s extensive guide to the subject.
2. Printable resources. Why is it that people still respect print journalists and published authors more than a blogger or web writer? That’s because like it or not, there is still some kudos in producing something you can hold.
People love printable documents. Normally it's something they’ve put their heart and soul into. If you produce content like that and make it available as content online there’s a good chance it’ll attract links and attention.
I like the white-paper format that can be a perfect example of this link building tactic in the b2b market place. I suggest checking out this website and email list dedicated to white-paper writing.
3. Curate a resource. You don’t need to necessarily ‘make’ something to create linkworthy content. More often than not it’s the websites which curate, compile and synthesize other people’s content that people find the most valuable.
Take something people have written about, spoken about and thought about, bring it all together into one cohesive piece, and people will love you. Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t carry out research, he just brings it together in an enjoyable and accessible way.
4. Beginners guides. Everyone was a beginner at some stage. In every sector, everyday there’s someone starting out who wants to pick up the basics as quickly and painlessly as possible. Make something which makes their life easier and when their not beginners anymore they’ll point people in your direction.
It’s no surprise that websites like SEOmoz which were producing great beginners guides when I started in SEO get so much link love from me. They helped me out early on and I’ll carry on paying back that favour for years to come.
5. Debunk myths. I bet you can easily name two or three misconceptions people have about your industry or perhaps there are some "Nude Emperors" which you've seen your competitors worship, but that you can see are naked.
Bust open the myths, it’ll be great content and other people who don’t believe the myths either will share the love. Plus if you’re lucky enough to open someone's eyes they’ll find someway to pay you back, often in links.
6. Topical content. In the world of Twitter and 24 hour news channels, there’s always something going on. If you can be the first to cover some breaking news, everyone who subsequently covers the topic will refer to the originator.
Do your best to be the originator as often as you possibly can. Michael Arrington and the chaps behind TechCrunch excel at this.
7. Timeless resources. As a flip-side to the point above, produce something timeless that people will feel as comfortable linking to in two years time as they do now.
That's what we’re trying to do here. Search Engine Land is renowned for news coverage but the content I link to most frequently are the timeless pieces of content like its guide to URL shorteners
8. Sponsorship & partnership. This can vary from the low scale donations like dropping a blogger a few quid for their latest charitable escapade, all the way to spending thousands supporting a conference or event.
The link should never be your primary motivation for these deeds but there’s no harm in it being your secondary motivation!
9. Ego linkbait. We all like a little ego massage every now and then. I’m going to let you into a little secret. While I really respect all the people on our 29 Most Influential People in the UK Search Industry, my motive wasn’t entirely altruistic.
I knew a proportion of the people featured would mention and link to the content. It’s my most successful blog post ever and actually received more traffic in Jan than the rest of the whole SiteVisibility site did in Jan the year before.
10. Produce video content. I’ve been experimenting with video and screen-cast quite a bit here over the last few months. The reason behind this is video is more noteworthy than text. A video is more useful and more likely to gain attention in the eyes of linkers.
11. Produce audio content. Podcasting and audio isn’t particularly fashionable at the moment but it still works. We get around fifteen thousand listeners to our podcast every show. That dwarves the readership of the blog that it lives on.
Is this because the content of the podcast is better than the blog? Probably not. It’s because the format works for a large number of people. If people like something enough, at some stage they will link to it.
12. Make tools. Some people like writing, some people like talking and other people like building tools. I think that of the three, it’s easier to attract links if you’re the kind of person who builds tools.
Tools come in many shapes and sizes, perhaps something that makes it easier to keep track of when your mobile phone comes up for renewal or maybe a Firefox plugin that checks rankings.
Regardless of audience, there will be tools that they need which they don’t have. If you can make them and give them away, links will come easy. Have a look at the backlinks of Yoast’s site and tell me tools don’t work as a link building method.
13. Offer photographs under Creative Commons Attribution License. The spread of user generated content has been great for written text and video about products but imagery is still light years behind.
This is your opportunity. Have more photos than all your competitors, vary them from the everyone else and encourage people to use them on their own site. It may cost you a few pence in bandwidth, but the links will be priceless. Find out more about Images and Creative Commons here.
14. Make a calculator or benchmarking tools. What’s the main reason people use the internet? Normally it's for one of two reasons, to find out information or to interact with people.
If they’re trying to find out information there will be some information that a simple piece of text, video or audio won’t be able to help with. This is where tools and calculators come in.
Tools and calculators are some of the most linked to content on the net and are also among the most useful. Not a day goes by when I don’t use this Percentage Change Calculator, and I’ve linked to Link Diagnosis hundreds of times.
This might be something you need to outsource but I bet within your team there are ideas for least half a dozen great calculators that people would find useful and therefore link to.
15. Produce interactive content. Everyday hundreds of pieces of content are written about SEO, it could be a full time job keeping up with them all everyday. It’s rare for something to escape the zeitgeist and still be an important read in the future.
This post is two years old and is still an essential read. It explains how interactive content like quizzes can be scaleable link building tools. It’s also a cautionary tale about becoming too successful, a problem we’d all like to have in our link building efforts.
16. Produce Games. In most situations search marketers have a somewhat antagonistic relationship with Flash. There is one thing about Flash that SEOs love - popular Flash Games.
One of the upsides of a viral game success is the huge number of links you’ll receive. But don’t underestimate the difficulty in coming up with an inventive idea and making it come to life. It’s not an easy task.
17. Carry out surveys. This is an old school PR tactic that most SEO agencies would be wise to add to their arsenal. Survey results are newsworthy. Something that’s newsworthy will also normally be link-worthy.
There are lots of online survey systems out there although my two favourites are Survey Gizmo and Survey Monkey. But.....before you commit any sins against statistics read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.
18. Create original research. In a similar way to survey results, original research is usually link-worthy. Think about research that’s gained press and web coverage in your sector in the past. What similarities are there between pieces? How can you follow these trends while still managing to stand out in your own right?
The type of research will vary based on your sector but a good thing to investigate is the proof behind something people have no evidence for or to challenge the conventional wisdom of the industry.
19. Create widgets which syndicate your content. People no longer find your content or product just on your site. They might read your blog referenced on Digg, or browse your catalogue of products on Google product search. So don’t be precious about your content.
Let anyone kind enough to syndicate your content free reign as long as they link back. If you want to create a quick and dirty RSS syndicating widget that people to embed in their site and link back to you, explore Widget Box as a starter.
20. Court controversy. a long time ago I wrote a blog post Why Jason Calacanis is a better SEO than you’ll ever be. There’s not many blog posts from nearly four years ago I’ve written that I think are still as true now as when I wrote them, other than this one.
Four years is a long time in “internet years” but Jason is still effectively courting controversy to attract attention and links. You won’t want to copy everything he does, but you’ll certainly be inspired by him.
21. Badges. I know a few of the guys who work at Findaproperty in their SEO team, and they are geniuses. Beyond all the clever things they've done is getting nearly every estate agent in the country to embed a image which links through to their website. If you were new entrant into the property sector you’re going to need some serious chops to fight that kind of link portfolio.
22. Awards. Not another reference to SEOmoz! Okay it is. Their web2.0 awards is an almost perfect execution of the awards for links technique.
Again this isn’t a new technique. What HiFi’s star rating is included in every HiFi advert plus most in store displays. Great advertising for the main magazine isn’t it?!
If you’re doing it for links you need to give your winners a badge they can proudly display and link back to your site. If you do choose this approach, do it properly and put some thought into your awards or it could ruin your hard earned credibility.
23. Offer a ranking. It's no secret that a post like “Top Ten X” or “25 Best Y Companies” are popular with punters and the people featured in the list. If you aren’t doing this every three or four months then your not using your blog or website properly.
24. Repurposing in a different media. Someone written a great academic paper in your sector? Turn it into an easily digestible blog post or even better a short and snappy podcast.
Seen a great presentation at a conference? Summarise your notes and turn it into a PDF document. Producing great content doesn't always mean you have to start from scratch. I say learn from Isaac Newton and ‘Stand on the Shoulders of Giants’.
25. Repurposing for a different audience. Very similar to the above, is there a really interesting but jargon ridden blog post you could put in to terms that even a lay person could understand? Or is there a really basic guide that could, with a little effort, be expanded to reach a more experienced audience.
An approach which is a personal favourite is, take something that to one group of people is very beginners level and apply it to a new audience. ‘The Taxidermist’s Guide to Rocket Science” etc.
26. Contests. If you give something away you are going to get some attention. Just ask Moonfruit .The trick for you though probably won’t be giving something away but how you can turn the attention the giveaway attracts into links.
One way is to keep all your data and form a case study. The domain name company NameCheap has probably got more links from the marketing industry case study than their successful Twitter marketing campaign.
27. Incentives. Can you reward people if they link to you? I’ve never seen this done on a big scale but perhaps a special offer or free digital product could be offered to anyone who links to you.
28. Interviews. What’s the best link we’ve ever had on the SiteVisibility website? The one from Seth Godin’s blog. How did we get that link? By Interviewing the prolific author.
If you interview someone who has their own blog or website they’re bound to mention that and link to the interview. OK, it might be reciprocal but that’s okay as these are the kind of recips that Google like.
29. Live blog. If you’ve paid hundreds of pounds to attend a conference or event, how can you get links from your spend? Live blog it. The chaps over at FreshEgg have done a great job of this in the past. Look at what they've been doing and do something similar!
30. Photograph events. If you’re going to a conference or event you don’t just need to take your laptop to live blog, you also need to take your camera. People will link to photos especially if you let them use them on their own site.
One of the most linked to pages on the SiteVisibility site is our pictures of our Fish Elvis. I’ll admit this isn’t the most relevant of links, but if you have photos of the main movers and shakers in your sector you'll get people using your images and with any luck, providing some credit.
31. Video events. Same concept as above but this really works. I recently with the help of dozens of people in Brighton arranged a #brightonseoevent. At that event the clever guys at Silicon Beach Training were recording video.
They captured a particularly ‘interesting’ discussion about paid links which eventually got picked up by the Guardian. That’s the holy grail of links, all from recording an event.
32. Directory submission. Some links are easy to get, some are bloody difficult. The more difficult they are to get the more value they have. Directory submission is a fairly easy way to build links, which means they’re not that valuable.
However, they aren't worthless and are always top of my hit list when I get my hands on a new client project.
33. Backlink analysis. At the last a4u expo London I was fortunate enough to be asked to talk about backlink analysis, a subject close to my heart.
The logic of this analysis is if someone links to your competitor they ‘might’ link to you. This tactic works, it really works. It’s been the foundation of every successful SEO campaign we’ve ever worked on. I’m glad most SEOs underestimate its potential as that makes our job easier.
34. Link research on trusted domains. There are certain directories and business listing services on very trusted domains here in the UK.
I won’t reveal them here, but never forget every website has a purpose and if linking to your website fulfills that purpose they’ll be happy to oblige even if that’s a university or government website.
35. Article syndication. Another less fashionable tactic that still pay dividends if used properly. I look for a link to do one of four things; to add authority, add anchor text, add volume or add velocity.
On three of the four counts, article syndication scores well. It’s also a great technique to get deep links to those internal pages that need a little nudge to perform better in search.
36. Press release syndication. If you think submitting your website to PRWeb will get you coverage in a national newspaper on it’s own you need your head-testing.
If, like me, you treat it as slightly different type of article syndication which can get you some links across a variety of domains on a keyword relevant page, you’re spot on.
37. Respond to online PR opportunities. Believe it or not there are journalists out there looking for people just like you. Business people or marketers working on behalf of companies to provide expert opinion on specific areas.
If you oblige them, they’ll definitely mention your brand name and with a little arm twisting they’ll usually link through to your site. There’s a great newsletter I’m signed up for that sends me dozens of these kinds of opportunities twice a day. It’s know as Help a Reporter Out (or HaRO to it’s friends).
38. Affiliate relationships. This is a little more on the risky side but it’s entirely feasible to make your affiliate links count towards your search performance. For a lot of people this falls the wrong side of the ethical line, but if Rob Kerry thinks it’s worth doing I’d have to concur.
39. Blog commenting. Most blog comments are no-followed and normally you would need the anchor text to be your name, so it's not normally the most effective tactic, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't dedicate some time to the process.
It’s one of the quickest ways of getting on the radar of high profile self publishers and some people think no-follow links have good value anyway.
40. Forum posting. Again like the above, you won’t be carrying out this tactic just for link building, but if participating in the forums makes sense from a social media perspective, there’s a likelihood it is having a marginal impact on your SEO.
But, should you bother with something that only has marginal benefits? The team behind the UK’s hugely successful Track Cycling team credited much of their recent domination of the sport to not one factor, but an ‘accumulation of marginal gains.’ I think you can see where I’m going with this.
41. Social voting site submission. Another tactic which falls into the ‘no follow, so don’t bother’ category for most SEOs. I agree with them to a certain extent.
A good SEO does a balancing act between the work you ‘could’ do and how much resource is available. In my book, we suggest making it easy for your community to submit you and if they do, think about it for the traffic not the links.
42. Create content on sites like Squidoo & Hub Pages. If you believe the advocates of user generated sites like Squidoo and Hub Pages they are the link building silver bullet. I think they miss the point slightly.
The trust in these domains can help you, but not really in a link building perspective. I think they are much better as a launch pad for content to rank that’s not on your domain. To give you an example, for about three years a well received article we wrote on ezinearticles for a client currently ranks in third place behind two listings from the clients site.
This isn’t a high volume phrase by any stretch of the imagination but that additional real estate in the SERPS does have real value and it’s a tactic we’ve repeated since.
43. Mentions without links. There will be a a number of people who have mentioned your brand without actually linking through. You can find them easily using Yahoo, and it’s not a tough sell to get in touch and ask for a link.
44. Improving anchor of existing anchor text. We've talked about the four things I look for in a link building campaign; volume, authority, velocity, and anchor text.
Sometimes you’ll get a great link with poor anchor text like ‘click here.’ We've had some success (but not lots) contacting the people behind these links and asking them whether they would be prepared to change the anchor text.
Often they're happy to change it to the brand name but occasionally the linker will switch to a nice keyword rich anchor. Not very often but it does happen.
45. Get links from existing visitors. People who are already visiting your site are already fans of your work. If they have their own website, they should be easy to persuade to link to you.
How can you encourage this? One way is to publish trackbacks on blog posts, this will show them you’re aware of who is referencing and writing about your content. The other way is to make some of your content embeddable.
I think YouTube would have had a very different trajectory were it not for their player being so easy to embed.
46. Join trade associations and professional bodies. Trade associations and professional bodies have all kinds of benefits to justify the cost; but with my link building hat on, I think it’s worth joining up with as many as possible as you can because they list their members with a link.
These websites have been around for years, so have built up trust and also will likely link to your competitors, showing the search engines that you’re part of the same niche and sector.
47. Advertise jobs or projects. This might be a little underhand but it does work. If you have a job or project going, first advertise it were you will get the best response then hand the job description over to you link building teams and get them to submit it where ever they think the link back to your site will have value.
They’ll probably target different websites to you where the link will pass value to your site. Suffice to say you must actually be recruiting for the job or looking for someone to fulfill the project!
48. Offer testimonials. This is another classic link building tactic that a lot of people forget about. If you’re a satisfied customer of a company, get in touch and offer to write or record a testimonial.
First they’ll bite your arm off because of it’s positive impact it’ll have on their conversion rate. Just ask them whether the link can include a link to your site, and Bob’s your uncle.
49. Review products or services on other sites. Similar to the process above, you can review products on other sites. One way is treating the reviews on review sites like you would commenting. Or the other option is to offer to write a review for another site and treat it like a guest post.
50. Send gifts or offer freebies. Got something to launch? Send a freebie to every blogger in your sector or maybe you could take them all out on a jolly! But be warned though this tactic can often backfire.
51. Get scraped. Normally people want to avoid being scraped, but I don’t care in the slightest. Thanks to this RSS footer Wordpress Plugin, everyone who scrapes you ends up linking back to you and helping you on the volume and velocity and anchor text front. It’s not much use for authority, though.
So still with us? Thanks. I’ve had a lot of fun writing this guide and hopefully even the most jaded of SEO addicts can come away with a few practical tips they can implement on their next link building campaign.
Well done on making it to the end, you're clearly serious about becoming a better link builder, you might enjoy my free book 'Becoming a Clockwork Pirate' which builds upon these themes and topics.