The ultimate list of 50 link building strategies
The web is built on links. Links to your website are one of the most important elements in how high your site ranks in search results.
If you want your site to show up on Google search results for “Blue Widgets” you need websites linking to you talking about “Blue Widgets” and establishing you as a trusted source of information on the topic. The more of these links you earn than your competitors, the better chance you have of outranking them. However, asking people to link to your website is not always straight forward. Here are 50 monster techniques you can use to get website links.
If you are starting out and want some quick wins, try these tactics first.
14: Get listed on directories and press release websites.
29. Crowd source content.
34. Become a content resource in your niche.
40. Build your social profiles.
45. Send someone a testimonial.
Create a badge or award.
Select the top websites or blogs in your business niche or reward the top users on your own website. Rank them and issue an award for being the best. Then give each one an award badge to display on their site with a link back to your site. Of course if all the links back to your site are from the same award it can look unatural so use this tactic along with others here for variety. See point 5.Lesson: Appeal to your users ego. Anything that makes them look great or tells others they are great will tend to be used.
Create a focus for your product with a National Day.
Wil Reynolds from SeerInteractive.com persuaded a client to give away $5,000 worth of products for a National Day they created especially for their niche. This campaign created a focus for discussion, PR and hype that resulted in so many links and traffic, that his client’s website went down.
As an added bonus the company collected over 3,000 email subscribers and sold over $10,000 worth of products.
A non-branded mini website was created for the campaign which achieved links from four of their main competitors. Six months later the company redirected (301) the mini site to their main site, with all the links generated now pointing directly to them. This year their competitors are asking if they can be part of the national day promotion.Lesson: Create a day for your product and do not be afraid to do it unbranded if you can get value from it later.
A great idea without a plan is useless.
Your idea might be great, but if you have no clear step by step plan on how to promote it, then do not do it. “Build it and they will come” does not work. Paul Cawley from http://learninbound.com warns: "Don't forget that your time is limited and you need to treat it as a resource. If you're wasting time on unproductive tactics that don't help your strategy, that has a cost to you".Lesson: Submitting to Reddit.com and Twitter.com etc. is not a plan.
Update old popular content.
Find pages 8-10 in Google search results for your target keywords. Pick out old, popular content with out of date information such as infographics, reports, how to guides etc. Update this information. If you can expand and improve upon it and post it on your own website.
Using a tool like OpenSiteExplorer.com look for all the sites that link to the old content. Email each site and tell them the information has been updated and where they can find the new version with a link to your website.Lesson: Build on other writers short attention spans. They started a blog and wrote great content but didn’t stick at it to keep it updated.
Do not be too aggressive with your link building.
A particular website got too many sites to link to them with the one keyword phrase (Blue Widgets). So much so, that it began to look unnatural to Google. The client had 29% of their inbound links for (Blue Widgets) but their competitors only had 2.5% of inbound links with that same phrase. So instead, spread links more naturally across, ‘Big Widgets’, ‘Red Widgets’, ‘How to use Widgets’ etc. for more natural looking statistics.Lesson: Unnatural looking inbound links can be penalised by search engines. Find out more about preventing link penalties here: http://backlinko.com/prevent-google-penalties
Build an army.
Do not wait until you need to promote something before you start connecting online and on social networks.Lesson: No point launching stuff if you have no muscle behind you to push it.
Build your network, social and email, before you need it to build trust and authority. Retweeting and sharing other people is a good strategy to build connections. People will be more likely to share you when required.
Give free content.
Want to get the top resource sites in your niche to link to you? Give away free content. Write a blog post, provide news or write a report. We take unused images and designs from our agency and post them to Flickr.com free for others to use in their blog posts. This has resulted in links back from high profile sites like Mashable.com and adweek.comLesson: Websites are crying out for quality content and like you, have very little time to produce it. Give it to them.
Make your app or content embeddable.
Rackspace the hosting company are a great example here. They made their web mail login form embeddable, just like a like a YouTube video. Users can copy a piece of code and put it on their own company website where staff can login and check their mail. Rackspace have a few form types with different Keywords in the link back. Again mix this tactic with others. See point 5.
Sneaky idea: Incentivise embeds.
Pay (a few hundred dollars) to top bloggers to feature your infographic. The return is not the link you get back from them directly (it doesn’t matter if they put a No Follow link on it) the result is from all the followers these top bloggers influence, who then reblog and share your infographic on their sites. So you pay once for many results.
"The tool https://klout.com/ can be a good way to find influencers for networks. - Paul Savage from Email TrainerLesson: Influencers matter.
Look for opportunities on Twitter.
Wil Reynolds set up a search for the phrase “lost my phone” on Twitter which returned thousands of results every day. Will then sent a tweet to each user with a link to a software programme that can help find the phone. Sometimes the link would contain a competition to win a new one. This simple campaign created lots of inbound links from people happy to see an opportunity to get a new phone.
Funny note: Will also set up a search for “Girlfriend stole my phone” but couldn’t understand why there were such little results until he changed it to “B$% stole my phone”.Lesson: Know your audience and their language.
Never try to replicate someone else’s backlink profile.
Be careful about copying what your competitor is doing as you could end up copying all their crappy, spammy links that can damage your ranking. First, create a market overview of all your competitors in a spreadsheet. Paul Cawley suggests tracking Position in Google results, Domain authority, Page Authority (from https://moz.com/), Linking root domains, Trust Flow and Citation Flow (from https://majestic.com/). Once you can see who is rising and falling in your industry, you can investigate why.Lesson: Be sure you know what works before you copy it.
Don’t waste time complaining about competitors
Google does not like to see websites paying for links It views it as cheating the system and can and does devalue your search ranking. However if you see your competitor buying links it is not worth complaining to Google about it. It is hard to prove and takes up too much of your time.
"If it's not something that will move the needle for you, you shouldn't be wasting time on it. It's just costing you time and money." suggests Paul CawleyLesson: Focus on where you get the return.
Monitor links to competitors
If you spot the competitors page now gives a 404 error (page not found) identify the content missing using the the wayback machine http://archive.org/web/. Try to rewrite and improve the content and republish on your own site. You can then follow up with everyone linking to the old page and ask them to link to your page instead. Some suggested email text to try
"Hey, I noticed this link on your site to a "blue widget guide" is broken. I found this other one that Alan wrote recently if you want to fix the link to a guide that works".
Get listed on directories and press release websites.
Check the Search Engine Journal directories list at www.searchenginejournal.com/web-directories. Paul Cawley of LearnInbound.com explains some recent changes to this tactic. "Low quality directories and press release sites have been hit hard by recent algorithm changes like Panda and Penguin aimed at reducing low quailty link farms. However, if a site is highly moderated, contains high quality information and is edited to a high standard preventing spammy marketers from taking advantage there still are opportunities here. Hyper local directories and industry specific niches tend to add a lot of value for users and have a high barrier to entry, ensuring they stay valuable in the search engines and users eyes."Lesson: Grab the low hanging fruit!
Revisit link sites
After a couple of months, go back to your Reddit or Hacker News posts and ask all sites that linked to that post to change their links to the content on your website instead. Be prepared to pay $10-$20 for the hassle of changing the link.
"Some may ask for an administration fee to change the links, but most would be delighted to do it if you've added additional value or extra resources on your own site making it more valuable for their visitors." - Paul Cawley
Follow through on pages that link.
A link is not much good if Google does not see the link. When a website links to you, ping Google on that site’s behalf to make sure the page it is picked up and indexed.
Don’t be afraid to ask people to change links
Find out who is linking to your social media posts and ask them to link to the source material on your own website instead.
Or ask them to change how they link
Find out who refers traffic to you and make sure they have an SEO friendly link. If they don’t, ask them to change it.
Top tips on viral incubation
You have 24 hours to drive your content to Viral Status. After this time it becomes exponentially harder.
- Encourage forum discussion
- Catch community action early
- Watch for organic inbound traffic from forums that you can incubate
- Register on the forum but post in other discussions before moving to your own post.
- Regularly comment on the thread to keep it alive and near the top of the forum.
Ask for reviews
This is a great idea from Brian Dean over at Backlinko.com. Search for blogs in your niche on Google that might be interested in what you sell. Reach out to them with a carefully worded email and offer it for free. Brian provides an example:
Hey (site owner name),
I was searching for some homepage soap recipes today when I came across (site name).
Actually, I just launched a guide that teaches people how to make luxury soaps at home. I usually charge $X, but I’d be more than happy to send it over to you on the house. All I’d ask is that you’d consider mentioning it on your blog or writing a review.
Let me know how that sounds.
He does warn not to violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by making the review optional and not specifically asking for a link.
Help a reporter out
This is one of my favorite tactics that I have been using for years. Help a reporter out (HARO) is an email list where reporters say they are looking for experts on various topics. You get a daily digest of all these requests and if you spot a request for your industry simply reply and tell them how you can help. This can result in mentions and links from a wide range of publications, online and off. In my exprience I would get picked up for 1 in every 10 requests I reply to.
Widgets and plug-ins work.
Website are always looking for new content or features to make their website more useful. Create something that can be easily embedded on a website as simply as a YouTube video. But make sure the embed code has a link back to your website.
Ideas: Calculator, video, infographic, form, survey, poll, data feed plug-in etc. Alternate the anchor text you use. See point 05.
Control your link text
When you create widgets or plug-ins try and control the link text and URL via a central server. This way you can change back links in future across all sites. So with one change on your server you can move all the sites linking to site A linking to site B.Lesson: Your business, product or keywords may change. Set up a way to change your inbound links at once.
The language you use on your own website and marketing dictates how people describe your product / page when linking to it with anchor text. For example Moz.com changed the heading and link on their discussion forum web page from “Questions & Answers” to “SEO Q&A Forum” as they are the keywords people searched for. People now use those keywords when linking to the forum.
Does your content deserve to rank on its own?
Instead of trying to rank a series of individual posts on a topic look at creating a new portal page on the topic’s subject with links to the individual posts. Link in and out to this page. Collectively it should rank higher and be worth sharing. Which leads us to...
Make use of old content and links on your website.
Example: You might have old posts from 5 years ago that is not very relevant any more and does not get many visits. Instead 301 redirect them to updated or more important pages.
Read the Excel Ninja Guide
Check out the Distilled Excel Ninja Guide on how better to use excel in your SEO research. http://www.distilled.net/excel-for-seo/ As well as helping you organise your link building efforts it is a great example of giving away free content in return for links.
How many 5 year olds could you take in a fight?
Look at “How many 5 year olds could you take on a fight” quiz for a great example of link bait.Lesson: Mad and funny always works. Challenging friends is even better.
Crowd source content.
Example: Ask your network on Twitter or Quora.com: “What are the best sites you would recommend for learning marketing?” Take the answers and write a blog post or report. The answers form a great resource on the best blogs people should read. Those blogs listed will probably link back to you. See also point 1.
"I'm a fan of google trends to see what and how people are searching." - Paul SavageLesson: EGO bait always works.
Outsource your link building.
There is a range of link building duties you can outsource including:Lesson: Link building can be a big job but you do not need to do all the donkey work.
- Finding URLs, targets and filtering those results.
- Content creation.
Avoid looking spammy
When scaling your link requests avoid looking spammy by the following:
• When gathering targets filter by what type of links you can get.
• Write down and record a few notes about each site to personalise the email link request you send out.
• Mail merge to personalise the emails you send.
• Have a backup plan in case someone asks for a link back or for a guest post.
Have a great design.
Spend a little extra time getting the site design beautiful. You should be doing this anyway but an added bonus is, you can get your website featured in the hundreds of design showcase sites on the web. Search Google for [CSS Showcase] and start submitting your site.
Spend time on the better targets.
Some sites and links are more valuable than others. Spend more time on the valuable ones to improve your chances of getting a link back.
Become a content resource in your niche.
One of the best examples I have seen of this is from Mark Brownlow who created the site www.emailisnotdead.com which compiles research and statistics on the email industry in the one place. Everyone in the email space refers and links to this page.
Find discussions to join and seed content.
BoardReader.com and BoardTracker.com can search and rank forum discussions for keywords or competitors. Become a member for a while, and contribute to discussions before you start pushing your own links.
Do High quality research.
Compile some research that will save others time and effort. Take a look at Oyster.com photo fakeouts. They researched photos from hotel brochures and websites and compared them with their own photos. The results very linkable.
Register your business everywhere.
Register your business and address across loads of sites on the web. See https://moz.com/local. It is important to keep the format of your name and address details consistant across these sites.
Find guest posting opportunities on Twitter
Another great tip from Brian Dean. In Twitter search you can search for the keywords "Your Topic" + guest post.
Results from the last week show you sites that feature guest bloggers that you should approach and pitch your content. Variations of the keywords to search include:
“your niche” + guest post
“your niche” + guest author
“your niche” + write for us
“your niche” + guest article
File patents and/or fund scholarly research.
Want a link from the patent office? File a patent (slow). University? Fund some research (less slow). Paul Cawley goes on to suggest:
"If you have a local charity you can sponsor, not only can you gain from any backlinks earned but you also earn from the even greater benefits of helping the local community and the trust that can bring". (Much faster!)
Build your social profiles.
Set up the following: Facebook company page, Google profile, Slideshare profile, Twitter profile, Crunchbase and AngelList page, Reddit account, Linkedin company page, Quora profile, Instagram account, YouTube account, About.me, Stackexchange and Github account, Pinterest profile, Tumblr, and Wikipedia profile.
Discover where big brands get their links and see if you can.
Use a tool like https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/ to find what sites are linking to a particular Domain and see if you can also get links there. But be careful and read point 11.
Create Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Reddit centric content.
Communities like to read and discuss topics about themselves. Think ego baiting on a bigger scale. So for example, if you do a post on the history of Twitter, people on Twitter are more likely to link, share and discuss your post. You can use tools like FollowerWonk or BuzzSumo to help identify what content is working for others in a niche and see how that can be improved upon for even better results.
Find bloggers with lots of fans
Use FollowerWonk or Klout to find bloggers with lots of followers and influence. Offer to do a guest post or provide other value to them or their readers which would result in a link back to your site.
Host/Sponsor/Attend events, Meet ups & conferences.
Look at lanyrd.com to find conferences you can sign up for and get listed online as an attendee.
Send someone a testimonial.
Send a testimonial to someone with your photo and link back to your website. Most people will put it on their own website because it makes them look good.Lesson: Again EGO baiting always works.
Do a video.
Long tail of video sites get 50% of all online traffic/views! That’s too much traffic to ignore. Start with creating a video version of some of your existing content. Put it online and let people share and embed it.
Create high quality infographics.
An infographic is a visual graphic showing various statistics on a topic or industry. It gives people an easy visual way to understand numbers and statistics. People love sharing and linking to them. Looking for infographic inspiration? Try here.
Get on key, industry reference listings & directories
Lists of construction companies in New York, list of key blogs in the online marketing industry or designers in the London. Each industry has lists. Find yours and ask to get listed with a link back.
Tweets are a valuable link
While Google might not use links on twitter as a ranking factor research has shown that links with a lot of shares get more links from other websites. Anything that improves your discoverability and makes more people aware of your great content means you have more chance of them linking back to you or sharing the content with even more people. So get people talking about you.Lesson: Start talking to people on Twitter and give them a reason to share your links with their audience.
Pay for tweets or shares
You do not have to wait for others to tweet about you as you can pay Twitter for promoted tweets which usually get retweeted if useful. According to Paul Cawley
"If you have identified the influencers within your niche (FollowerWonk), create a targeted Twitter list of just those power users. Promote your content to those and you dramatically increase your chances of them sharing it with their large following of targeted users, giving you a type of 'Paid Organic Boost'"
Larry Kim has some great advice for working with Influencers here: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2015/02/26/influencer-marketing
Note: These are great outside indicators to Google that you are a trusted source of information. Inside make sure that your own website is set up correctly. Luckily Google will tell you anything you need to fix. Log in to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and set up your website. Then do anything Google tells you to do.
A big thanks to the following people who continue to share their knowledge and experience for others to learn. Read and follow their blogs.
Rand Fishkin - Moz.com
Wil Reynolds - SeerInteractive.com
Martin MacDonald - Seoforums.com
Jane Copeland - Ayima Search Marketing
Russ Jones - Virante.com
The guys at Distilled.net
Alastair McDermott - websitedoctor.com
Paul Savage - emailtrainer.com
Paul Cawley - LearnInbound.com