I’ve been meaning to write an SEO service guide to link building techniques for some time now, and so here it is. Some or all of these link building tactics may be useful for your own website(s), and this post is indeed a guide for myself, should I ever forget some of them – which does happen from time to time. I’m getting old now, and useful SEO techniques (especially for building links) that I used many years ago, and even a few years ago, are becoming memories that I had forgotten.
I have included a few types of link building that I don’t agree with, or very rarely use as a ‘veteran SEO’, just for the sake of completeness.
So, let’s go.
Advertising – Let’s say that you have a website that makes kitchen taps (or faucets for you Americans) and you find a kitchen DIY blogger website. Advertising your website on such a site is not against Google link building ‘terms and conditions’. Let’s say that you create an image for your product, that when clicked when placed on the kitchen DIY blogger site, takes visitors to your website. This is what I consider an ‘advertising link’.
Amazing content – that doesn’t require outbound activities to make people aware of it, such as social media and email outreach. This is the kind of content that people are just so naturally amazed to see – and are compelled to link to it. Think of the dress story a few years ago where people couldn’t decide if it was blue and black, or white and gold. Although that particular content may not be your cup of tea, it gained thousands of inbound links, and tens of thousands of social media mentions. Amazing content, such as original research, is not just great content, but the content piece of a lifetime.
Asset resources – consisting of various formats such as white papers, in-depth studies including lots of data, surveys and the like, asset resources take time to create, but can produce long-lasting inbound link campaigns either by soliciting for links via email/social, or naturally, as the content rises high in SERPs.
Association links – similar to industry association websites (see below), links from organisations that you are a part of can be very useful indeed. For example, if you are an equal opportunities employer, there maybe an association site that will link to each of the employers. Becoming members of such organisations can create a very strong link foundation for a website.
Blog commenting – did you think this was dead? If you really, genuinely, are adding to the discussion on a blog post, then commenting on blogs is a natural way for Google to find your website by following links. Because of the mass overuse of it by spammers for over a decade, this form of adding links is looked down upon. But why should a comment on an industry blog post be something that you should avoid?
Broken link building – have I spent time building links from broken resource lists, of course I have. However, it is not something that I do these days, as it has become pretty mainstream, with a gazillion blog posts written about it in the mainstream SEO press. I would say the last time that I earned links to a website this way was about ten years ago – and I don’t think that I will be doing it again.
Contests – if you can find the angle – without (directly) asking participants to link to your site – then contests that gain links can work very well indeed. I think that, if I am honest, I don’t do this type of link building enough. The last time I did it for a website, I gained around 20 links for a competition prize of just £200 (in vouchers) with the vast majority still there over a year later. This is amazing value in terms of links.
Contests work best for contestants that have their own website or blog. If you can make it very easy for them to do something on their site that points to yours (without asking for a link, remember), then this is the way to do it.
Copying your competitor’s links – if you have the discipline, which you should as someone in the field of search engine optimisation, then taking the time to compile each of your competition’s links using something like Ahrefs (my favourite), then filtering out the good links from the bad with a couple of formulas in Google Sheets, you have a ready-made instruction list of what to do.
But wait. How do you know which links are providing value to each of the sites? A combination of your intuition, and a deeper look to see where target pages rank for various phrases is needed. If you have the budget to cover buying these links (in various ways as mentioned in this post), then go for it. If you don’t have the budget, then tread carefully, take more time to find out which links are really worth pointing to your website.
Ego bait – if you have ever seen those list posts with titles such as “25 Awesome SEO Experts That You Should Listen To”, then this could be considered an “ego bait link building” tactic.
This kind of content (especially in long form), can take a while to create, but if you do a good job, and then follow up this content with email and social media outreach, then great links can be earned.
Other link building tactics in this area include award giving (award bait?). There are lots of bloggers and website owners using this tactic, so make sure that if ego bait linking is something you do, that you put some real effort into it.
Forum links – I admit that I did this a lot – back in 2003! I still see it done today, especially by poor SEOs to domains that they are willing to churn and burn. However, I saw it work well for an incredibly niche subject matter, where over 80% of links pointing towards the site were from forum posts and profiles. With software such as Scrapebox, this form of getting lots of links from forums (no matter how useful they are) will be around for some time.
Guest posting – this is still the most favoured link building strategy used by SEO agencies today. This is partly because it can be put into a process, and scaled. It can also be easily reported by an SEO account manager to their client, when the client asks the dreaded question, “so what have you been doing this month?”. I still post the occasional guest blog, but on the right type of site – and only when I think it is genuinely worth it.
Tip: When creating lists of blogs suitable for guest posting, find out if the links from the posts appear as some of the most important links to the ‘linked-to’ site, using a tool such as Ahrefs. If the links do appear here, then it is probably a good place to post.
Bonus tip: How many guest posts have between one and three links in their text? Answer: 99%. If you can post a guest post with between five and 15 links to great, useful websites (including your own), then this is what I would strongly advocate you to do.
Industry association websites – if there is one type of link that will never ever get punished in the future of SEO, then this is it. I advise all readers of this blog post to find out as many industry association websites, no matter how old they are, no matter how rubbish they look, to get your site listed on them, with a link pointing back to your site. Even if the link on an industry association site is a redirect, even if the link isn’t a link, and is just your URL. Do it now. Stop reading this post and do it now.
Google loves websites that act like the librarians of a particular field – which industry associations most surely are. And this is why industry association websites are truly ‘value giving’ to a website. Not only will the link be useful, it will also add much concrete to Google understanding exactly what your website is about – and where it belongs.
Infographics – I’ve personally found that infographics are worth doing if you have the budget to submit to the paid-for infographic listing sites that exist. I used this particular tactic for a website, and some of these links are still the most important inbound links to the site. If you can get your infographics posted on several blogs too (with a link, of course), then it could be a worthwhile tactic. However, if you are going to do a pretty bland job of creating your infographic, like 90% of creators, then don’t expect much return or too many links.
Industry content study – again using the great Ahrefs – this time its “Top Content” tool – and some good direction for your overall SEO strategy can be created. It goes like this.
Find the top content for around 8-12+ competitors and paste them into a Google Sheet. Find similarities between what each site’s top ranking pages are (other than the homepage). Once you have this information, find out the types of website that are linking to these pages. Once you have this information, it should give you some topics for great content to produce, and an audience of people to promote the content to.
This tactic works well if you are great at content writing, and/or asset creation. Creating this type of content and earning just a few links from good, quality websites can make it all worth the effort.
Local citations – mainly when it comes to citation building, it is to know which sources for citations actually are counted by Google. By using various citation sources like Bright Local and Whitespark, you mitigate much of guessing which citations count. Although Google has never said that it counts citations as links, it is still something that you should be doing, just in case.
PBNs (Private Blog Networks) – PBN strategies, like many SEO tactics, have seen waves of ‘innovations’, followed by waves of de-indexing by Google. You shouldn’t let the phrase PBN link building scare you, however. Despite being a tactic used by spammers, PBNs can be completely natural. For example, you may own three or four websites yourself. This could be considered a PBN. Your friend(s) may own a business or two. These theoretically could be considered a part of your PBN if you ask them for a link from their site.
If your partner suddenly created a hobby blog that didn’t relate to your own website, but they wanted to link to you anyway, would this be considered bad? Of course not. PBNs take many form. They are not always the SEO-ninja-fest that you read about. By the way, stay away from “those” types of PBN.
Tip: Providing a testimonial to a friend’s business on their homepage, with a link back to your own website is a very good way of gaining links while providing something of value.
Resource pages – one of the very best ways to build your link profile is with resource lists. Modern SEOs may look at a resource that has 130 links on a page and turn their nose up at it. How foolish they would be. Google LOVES curated resource lists, especially those around a particular topic, and has been online for a long time. Remember I wrote earlier that Google loves ‘librarian-type websites’ – well resource lists are exactly the type of things that librarian-type websites create. You will have seen many of these over the years – many are websites with designs as old as the apprentice you recently employed – and these are like gold dust for rankings.
For example, if there are just ten resource lists for your industry online and you can get into just three of these lists, Google will see you as a really useful, important part of the fabric of the industry. Get a link in just four…and well, your rankings will rise so much more than you can imagine.
This method was used by Eric Ward (the greatest link builder there ever was) to amazing effect, meaning that he was at the top of his game for twenty years or so.
University offers/scholarship/alumni profile link building – getting links from university web pages is great. Not because they are from universities, but that universities are usually linked to by many thousands of important websites, meaning that Google bots travel through university sites very often. This means that links added on university web pages can oftentimes mean a really good ranking improvement.
Some of the ‘easier’ ways to earn university links is by creating offers to university students or alumni. Many universities have pages just for this. Scholarships can also be offered, but this is useful for only a small amount of websites. Adding the profile of a university alumni, should they work for your company, is a great way to get a useful, and powerful link to a website.
Skyscraper technique – coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, this method of creating inbound links is time consuming, but valuable if done correctly. I have seen many attempts at skyscraper link building tactics, and a common theme is that people seem to do ‘just enough’ to beat an existing piece of content that has been gaining links. If you are going to use skyscraper link strategies, then make sure that the content you create is at least twice as good as what already exists.
Social sharing – although you will get people sharing social content that you have created that links to your website content, what you are looking for with social sharing is people that follow up with a link from their own website or blog. Sharing your assets and content pieces on social media to the correct audience is of course advised, but working on getting links from websites (following this social activity) is massively important.
Supplier links – if you have a website in which you sell other companies products, then you may find that some of these suppliers (or vendors) may link to your site. They may even have a page on their site called something like ‘stockists’. You may be a company that uses a particular piece of software where again, such a page on the software vendor’s site may exist. Even if the page does not exist on their site, they may be willing to create one if you badger them enough. This works particularly well if you spend a lot with a supplier, or have been using their product/service for a long time.
Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey – how many times have you heard Google (and some so-called leading SEO experts) say that if you create great content consistently, then links will come. This does happen, in time, to those websites that produce great content on a really consistent basis. But don’t expect to get rewards if you produce great content sporadically. The long game in terms of writing content to build links does work – if you are consistent.
Tier 2 sites – you will often find that link building tactics offered on places like Fiverr and freelancer.com include the phrase, ‘tier 2 link building‘. What they mean by this is the creation of websites on various platforms such as Tumblr and WordPress.com that link to your own website. The trick is that they then build links from various quality sites to the tier 2 websites, making them more potent, with the potency hopefully rubbing off into the link to your own site. Way too much work, when you can spend that time and money writing great content, earning links directly to your own website.
And there you have it, my A-Z (well, A-T) list of link building tactics and strategies that you may find useful for growing traffic and improving the general levels of SEO on your site(s).
James is a digital industry veteran, and has worked various roles from SEO, head of research, to director level.
He is a content nerd, and loves nothing more than demanding that evermore content is added to client sites – as well as the Embryo blog!