Link building is one of the, if not the most important parts of any SEO campaign, it is also one of the hardest and most time consuming.

However there are easier ways to build links, some of which I mentioned at the end of an earlier post (Getting your site indexed), but these links are not very powerful and are only really good for getting your site indexed.

There are many ways you can build links to your site, some of which I have listed below.

The good Ol’ fashioned link request emails

This tactic has been around for a long time, is probably one of the most used, and can provide the best return, you can potentially gain a lot of quality links by simply asking Webmasters to link to your site. This tactic works much better with more established sites with some authority rather then new sites.

The only problem with this is that it can be very time consuming and with more web savvy site owners today they are sometimes reluctant to place a link on their site, as this would negatively affect their Google page rank.

A good trick when using this tactic is to provide something in return, for example I check the Webmasters site for crawl, code and SEO errors and inform them on these before asking for a link, I then keep a conversation going with them until eventually I ask for a link.

This works well, but you have to target related websites, if you have a site about Barbie dolls its very unlikely that a Car Hire site is going to link back to you no matter how much you help them. Another way you can use this tactic is by simply having meaningful conversations with other Webmasters, build a relationship and then ask for a link.

Sending out 1000 emails with the same email template will not work anymore, this will do more damage than good because if you manage to get 5 links from doing this you will have missed out on 995 websites which will no longer trust you and just see your emails as spam.

Give Webmasters an award!

Webmasters love to be made to feel special, so if for example you have a gardening blog why not do a ‘The Best of Gardening’ list, and name your top five favorite gardening sites, these can even be your competitors!

To everyone you mention in the list you can send them and email saying something like ‘Congratulations you are featured in our ‘The best of list’ here is your badge’ You will then send them a badge which they can place on their site.

A lot of Webmasters will place this badge on their site because it makes them feel special, obviously this badge will have a link to your site embedded.

However if you do plan on using this technique then you should not over use it, do not spam random webmasters and always provide value.

This method really relies on you having at least a mid popular site with traffic, no one is going to put a badge on their site which they got from a PR0, new and low quality site.

Give your customers a discount

If you run a membership site, then you can offer your customers a small discount on future bills if they place a link on their site pointing to yours.

This can be any % and the take up you will have on this will be brilliant, people love saving money especially when they don’t have to do much! How easy is it to simply place a link on their site!

However this can be seen as ‘paying for links’ you should take caution when using this method. You will usually find this tactic used when submitting your website to a business directory where they will either offer you a paid listing but if you give them a reciprocal link in return, your listing is free.

A good way to get around the dangers of essentially ‘buying links’ is by advising people to use the ‘nofollow’ tag, even though these links will not help your search engine positions, they can be a great way of getting some cheap advertising, without paying commission on each new member they sign up like an affiliate program. If you do go down this route then it would be better to ask your customers to use a banner instead of just a simple link.

Have some seriously amazing content

This tactic is used a lot in the SEO world, where I do believe that having some brilliant content on your site can gain you a lot of links. You will need to build links in other ways first in order for that content to be seen, otherwise your site will not be in the SERPs in the first place.

This is unless of course you have a large social following then you can just share it and you’ll hopefully gain some links (if your content is good enough!).

To build some great content you need to be creative, research and have perfect grammar/spelling.

Great content doesn’t need to always come in the form of text on a page, recently infographics have been a popular linking strategy which can pull in hundreds of links if the infographic is up to scratch of course.

Lists are also great for link bait, people love reading lists like the ‘top 10 action films’ or ‘the top 100 blogs online’ for example.

Build a WordPress plugin

This tactic can be seriously amazing and can build you thousands of links.

For example our survey and quiz tool plugin has been downloaded 45,890 times and each time someone uses it the plugin places a link to our site (this is a very clear link with no form of deception).

When using this strategy it is very important to NOT hide or cloak the link back to your site, simply put something like ‘Powered by: [Your Link]’ under the widget. Otherwise this could be frowned on and is border lining black hat!

Of course this is not limited to a WordPress plugin you can create a plugin for any CMS, or even create a website script which places a link. For example the people that have developed the Arcade Script place a powered by back link in the footer of anyone using the script, currently they have built around 9k links by using this method.

Article Marketing

Article marketing is a traditional way of building links to your site used mainly by Internet marketers.

There is some controversy over whether this method still works or not after various Google updates including ‘Panda’ but the fact remains (which has been proven) if you post your articles in the right places, these links do in fact work well.

By ‘The Right Places’ I mean not in places that have been heavily spammed, for example there is an article directory called Go Articles which auto approves articles, this means they do not have guidelines or a human editor, evidently their article directory has a load of spam and is really poor quality.

Saying this I did test out ‘Go Articles’ where the link wasn’t very good on their site, my article did get republished by around 4 other sites! Ok these sites were not the best and didn’t give me a huge boost in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) but this is the reason people like article marketing not because the link they get from the article directory but all the other links they easily get from other websites republishing their articles.

Three of the best article directories are:

Website Google Page Rank Alexa
Ezine Articles 6 317
The Free Library 7 4,571
Bright Hub 6 3,045

As well as using article directories, you can use hosted blogs and web 2.0 sites to build links, this is the same principle as article directories, create great content that will get seen by the community and hopefully linked to which will make the link to your site even more powerful.
Some of the best hosted blog platforms are:

Some of the best hosted blog platforms are:

Website Google Page Rank Alexa
WordPress 9 18
Blogspot 9 7
Squidoo 7 210
Hub Pages 6 297
Weebly 8 366
Yola 7 3,560
Live Journal 8 102
Blogsome 6 4,341

Other link building tactics that don’t work as well but are easy

Website Directories

These I believe are a thing of the past, they used to work well but not so much now. There have been a lot of new web directories pop up but most are low quality and spammy. Of course you can still find a good directory like DMOZ, but these are rare and can take a long time to get approved. The Yahoo directory used to be quite powerful as well until it was discontinued.

Forum links

Forum links are weak, you shouldn’t spend much time if any trying to get them, at best you will receive traffic from the forum but the links will not really help improve your rankings.

However if you are promoting a specific product or service then a targeted forum could be a good place to go. The trick is to try and make yourself an authority on your subject, for example if we were to use forums we would go to a hosting forum and help people out, we would include our link in the signature section and hopefully we would gain new visitors and subscribers.

Blog comments

There is nothing wrong with blog comments, as long as they are done in a non spammy way, they won’t really help you increase your search engine rankings that much but they can boost your PR nicely.

The idea with blog comments is to not be spammy and actually contribute to the forum instead of just commenting for a link, also please don’t use your keyword as your name, this never works and the comment will not be approved.

Reciprocal link exchanges

Reciprocal link exchanges have been around since the beginning of time (internet time), all it involves is swapping links with another webmaster. Yes these did used to work well back in the year 2000, but now they hold little value.

However if you are linking out to another website, then it is worth asking for a link back, it doesn’t take long and will do some good. Just don’t spend too much time searching for people to do reciprocal link exchanges with.

Link building tactics Google will kill you for!

Unfortunately in the world of SEO there are a lot of bad people who like to cheat and make the Internet a giant ball of spam. But lucky for us (not so much for them) Google (the people that basically rule the Internet) are cracking down on these spammers, I am going to list some of the things you shouldn’t do when link building.

  • Do not believe the hype of people selling 1,000+ links for £10, they will not work, they will not do anything for your rankings other then damage them!
  • Do not buy links, and if you are determined to buy links do not use a market place, contact Webmasters directly.
  • Do not participate in any link schemes, link farms or anything that is automated. It will not work
  • Do not buy 100 domain names, build low quality sites and link them together, its a waste of money.
  • Do not participate in 3-way linking Google is not stupid.
  • Do not use fiverr.com gigs to build links they are only $5 for a reason. You will see people offering 10k link packages or 250+ edu links these are ‘unethical’ links and will most likely harm your site!
  • Do not link to bad neighbourhoods (spam sites/adult sites) unless of course you use the ‘nofollow’ tag.

Link building can be very time consuming but you should never go over to the dark side (spam and going against Google’s guidelines) otherwise known as ‘Black Hat SEO’. When using these tactics the results are never permanent and sooner or later you will get caught out and penalised by the search engines. I have done lots of research on this which included a huge number of tests using a lot of dodgy tactics, yes you can see results for a while but not for long.

Avoiding the Google Dance when link building

If you haven’t heard of the Google Dance before then you are lucky, a lot of new sites get caught in this and it can last for a very long time.

What is the Google Dance?

The Google Dance should not be confused with the ‘Google Sandbox’ a majority of new sites are affected by the Google Sandbox which basically consists of:

Your site ranking highly for the first few weeks and then it gets dropped from the search engine results completely only to re-appear deep in the results (page 5 or more). It will the fluctuate for a few weeks before it settles into its final position, this is just Google figuring out where your site should be placed in the SERPs.

The Google Dance however is very similar but it can last a lot longer, sometimes a year or more. You will know after the first month whether you have been affected by this or not simply by tracking your rankings. If you see your site on the first page for your targeted keyword for a few days and then it drops way down in the rankings for a week or so and then back up to first page and so on then you have more then likely been affected.

You can track 10 of your keywords free using: SERPFox.

The Google Dance usually happens when you have done one of either of these things:

  • Been overly aggressive when link building for a new site and do not have many ‘decent’ links.
  • Put a lot of duplicate content on your site
  • How can you overcome the Google Dance?

    Overcoming the Google Dance can and most probably will take a bit of time (around two months) it would be much better to avoid it in the first place.

    However if you have been affected then there are several steps you can take:

    1. You should continue to build back links to your site, but no more ‘rubbish’ links, try to gain authority links with some nice PR.

    2. You need to check your site for crawl errors you can use Screaming Frog if you do have crawl errors you should fix these ASAP.

    3. Check your robots.txt file, and if using WordPress download, install and configure the All in One SEO Pack.

    4. Remove all duplicate content from your site, if you have two pages with the same content remove one and use Copyscape to check the internet for any duplicates of your websites content.

    If Copyscape does find duplicate content elsewhere on the internet, then you should either remove it off your website or if you have written the content yourself which means you are the copyright owner you should email the webmaster that took your work and ask for its removal. If the website owner does not remove your content send him a cease and desist letter, a template can be found here: Download cease and desist letter template

    Unfortunately this is about all you can do to overcome the Google Dance, I would say the most important thing is to build good back links, and removal of duplicate content.

    Final words on link building

    There are many more ways in which you can link build, you just need to be creative, persuasive and professional.

    While you are on your search for some great link building advice you should know that you will never need to buy anything to have an effective link building campaign, all the information you need can be found online and in this post. There are many marketers online that will try and sell you their ‘methods’ of gaining links, usually these will be of no use and will only repeat things you have already read here.

    In our next SEO post we will be talking about how to optimise your meta description and title for the best click through rates and how these affect your search engine rankings.

    Ricky Dawn SEO and Content Executive

    Ricky was an SEO and sales expert with a long string of successes to his name. He focused on producing targeted content for SEO benefits.