Link Building Techniques That STILL WORK!
Traffic. If you’re at all involved in publishing content to the web, then you probably care about traffic. If you care about traffic then you probably care about SEO. If you care about SEO, then you probably care about generating links to your web site.
If you don’t care about any of those things, then here’s what you need to know – SEO has the ability to drive massive traffic to any web site, provided you are doing it right. The number one ranking factor, by far, is the number and quality of links pointed at your website. In days of yore (read 2011 and earlier) all you needed was oodles and oodles of links pointing at your site to rank for most any phrase. Google told us they cared about quality, relevant links, but what they said and what they did were two different things. Today, all that has changed.
Today, Google is backing up the tough talk with a hard-core focus on quality and relevant links to your site; and a bunch of crappy links from crappy sites with over-optimized anchor text will do you no good at all (provided it doesn’t get you removed from the index altogether).
So all this begs the question; if you can’t just go out and automate your link building, how do you actually build links to your website?
I’m so glad you asked.
Here are 10 ways to build links that still work today, along with specific recommendations and tips to help you master each link building technique.
1. Write Epic Shit!
There is no better link building technique than amazing content. When you write something extremely valuable to your readers, it will naturally attract links. We share things that we find valuable. It’s human nature.
You’re natural question would be “define epic.”
Here’s what I mean by epic. Your aim should be to write the definitive web page about the topic you are writing about. My aim when I created this post was to write the very best post I could find about “link building techniques.” I may fail in that quest, but it is what I’m shooting for. That means a longer post. That means a lot of work. That means text and images to ensure the post is instructive and valuable to a number of readers.
- Once you’ve created your masterpiece, don’t forget to share it far and wide. It helps if you’ve built an excellent network prior to writing said masterpiece. Use every means necessary to get the word out. And if the piece is a blog post and comments are enabled, be sure to check back a few times each day to address and respond to any comments on the post.
- Perform solid keyword research before you write your page and basic SEO as you upload it so you’re sure your post can compete for the phrase you are targeting. No matter how good your piece, it’s always helpful if you’ve written something that can rank as well – meaning more traffic, more exposure and more potential people who may link back to it as a resource after they’ve read it.
- Remember – Epic is not about length. Epic is about value. Lots of valuable posts are longer. Not all long post are valuable.
2. Guest post
Of all the link building techniques I know of, my favorite by far is guest posting. Writing guest posts is an EXCELLENT way to get back links to your site. When you write a guest post on another blog, most publishers will allow you to include a bio with a link back to your site. To be safe and ensure your links don’t look too manipulated, be sure to link your name, the url of your website or the website/business name. Don’t link the same descriptive text from the bio of every guest post you write, as that may start to look manipulative over time.
Few people create better links back to their site using this technique than my friend Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media. Andy is a guest blogging machine. He’s seemingly everywhere, but his guest posts add value wherever he goes. And he makes sure he communicates that value back to the publishers where he guest posted. If you’re interested in checking out Andy’s handiwork, he’s even built a Listly list of his guest articles.
- Be sure to implement Google authorship for your guest posts via the use of rel=”author” tagging.
- Target potential guest post sites that are in your vertical but have more authority than your site. There are reasons to write for newer blogs too, but building links of immediate value means writing for websites that are more powerful than yours. Check out the domain authority of sites where you might guest publish via Open Site Explorer and compare against the domain authority of your website.
- Finding keywords when writing guest posts is just as important as when you write for your own site. Do the same keyword research for your guest posts as you would for your own site. It means more work for your guest posts. But it gives you a chance to rank for more competitive phrases; phrases where your website might be able to compete.
3. Create an AWESOME Infographic or Data Visualization
Let’s face it. Most infographics suck. There’s nothing worse than being lured into clicking on an infographic that was just a blog post that some “web marketer” thought would generate a ton of links if it was turned into a graphic.
However… HOWEVER, there are few things better at generating interest, awareness, shares and links than a well done infographic or other way to graphically represent complex data. Telling stories with graphics and interactive web apps is a winner. Know who’s doing AMAZING work in this area? The New York Times.
- One great litmus test to find terrible infographics is whether the image could convey the same information if structured as a blog post. If so, you have no business creating an infographic.
- Don’t forget your sense of humor when creating infographics. A combination of witty, humorous or otherwise remarkable info conveyed in a snappy graphic can be very compelling.
4. Curate a List (a GREAT List)
One of the less frequently used link building techniques and a great way to build tons of quality inbound links is to create THE DEFINITIVE RESOURCE about some area that is a good fit for your website or business. I know there are many such “list posts” you probably read every single day. Hell, this blog post technically qualifies as one of them. But that’s NOT what I’m recommending here.
What I am recommending is the lost art of the GREAT list. The list that is novel and informative; exhaustive and well researched; updated and curated.
I am sure there are many examples of publishers who do this sort of thing, but the best example from my body of knowledge is Lee Odden’s excellent Top Rank Blog. Lee created more than a few of these types of resources over the years. My two favorites are the Big List of Search Engine Marketing Blogs (over 400 marketing blogs all categorized and reviewed) and the annual 25 Women Who Rock Social Media list/post.
Notice that both of these lists have a badge associated with them that are easily downloaded and displayed so that people who made the list can show off their credentials. Now…not everyone has a blog with the cache of Top Rank Marketing Blog to be able to pull on and get people to list, but you may. Give it a shot. You never know what might happen!
- Pick a list unlike anything else out there.
- Put a lot of time into creating and curating the list.
- Don’t just list the resources. Put the time and effort into writing a brief review about the people or web sites that comprise your list. Tell your readers WHY you thing they’re awesome/terrible/creative/resourceful etc…. Pssst. You don’t have to have a COMPLETE list the first time you create it. It’s totally OK to update the list as you go, maybe adding people each month, quarter or year. The Big Blog List mentioned above took shape over many years.
- If your list is based on something positive, be sure to inform members of the list that they made the list. Welcoming them into your community is a great way to build relationships and increases the chance they will promote the post by sharing or adding your badge to their website.
5. Hold a Contest
Another great way to generate links back to your website is to hold a contest. The end result feels a lot like the list curation mentioned in #4 above, but the tactic varies significantly.
You may be struggling to find a reason to hold a contest. I would be willing to hold a contest for nearly any reason or for no reason at all. Hold a contest to crowd-source a design for your blog or a new logo. Hold a “Best Blog In Your Industry” contest. Hold any contest that might get traction and awareness in your industry.
As an example, I present you with Social Media Examiner. They hold an annual contest where readers nominate the best social media blogs. The nominating blog post gets a ton of traffic and engages the entire social media community as people scramble to get their blogs nominated. Then they engage a bunch of experts to serve on the judges panel (more awareness). Then the annual list is announced (along with a badge). The blog post that announced the 2012 winners generated 5892 links from 92 different domains. WOW!
- When creating the rules of your contest, instead of private submissions via emails or forms, make the submission a public post on a blog or other website with a link back to your site. Then the applicant can notify you of the page that linked to your site via email if necessary.
- Promote the HELL out of your contest. The more people know about it, the more potential links you can earn.
- Contests of this type are WAY more successful when you already have a killer community to draw on and excite.
- I’m a huge fan of Facebook, but I would rather run 10 contests on my site than run 1 on Facebook. I’m sure there are reasons to have a Facebook contest. None of those have much to do with link building – which in turn helps your website.
6. Issue a Press Release
I know, I know. Matt Cutts said press releases don’t have link value. Except he never said that. The exact quote is:
“I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.”
This does not mean that sites that re-run or syndicate those press releases don’t benefit your rankings. And they clearly do.
So find something to write a press release about. The better your release and the more newsworthy the event you are publicizing, the greater the likelihood your release will get picked up and have a follow on article written with a real world, editorially granted link to your website. You know…the good kind. Buried deep within original content. On a kick ass website.
Even if that never happens, but the release gets picked up by 100 or more news organizations who are starved for content, and your release includes a link to your website, most of those links will count. They probably are not as valuable as the editorially given link from within an original article, but there is some value there.
- Only issue a press release when you have something that is truly newsworthy to share.
- Make sure your release includes some of the keywords that are related to your product, service or business.
- Include no more than link to internal page on your website – preferably to a product or service page related to the release.
- Use one of the better known news distribution sites to maximize reach.
7. Host an Event
Some of the best ways to generate links to your website don’t have anything to do with “link building” per se. It just so happens that one of the byproducts of these activities is links and social shares. Events fall into that category.
The simple fact that a customer or evangelist attended an event does not guarantee that they will write about you and link back to your website. But that happens quite regularly. I encourage you to consider hosting an event and to do so in such a way that links become one of the byproducts as people socialize the event before the event, during the event and reminisce about their experiences after the event.
- Plan for, announce and socialize a special hashtag for the event and encourage attendees to tweet or share info on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ as the event proceeds.
- If there is a lecture happening be sure to capture the slides from the presentations and have them uploaded to a page on your site so that attendees can share the slides while at the event.
- Encourage your sales channels (including affiliates) to share your website as part of their promotion process.
- Take a cue from Mark Schaefer and the excellent Social Slam team and ask attendees to send you links to any follow up blog posts they write about the event so you can create a blog post yourself that captures and shares all the posts written by event attendees. This way of someone writes about the event, but did not provide a link back to your website, you can ask them them edit the post to include a link.
8. Interview an Expert (or 14…or 102)
The best part about interviewing someone on your blog (whether in print, via a podcast or on video) is this: Interviewing is a group sport. It takes (at least) two to tango. Which means you’ve immediately doubled the number of people who are interested in promoting that post.
By pulling together a number of experts and interviewing them, or getting their perspective on a hot topic gives you a chance to earn a number of back links. Online friend Cheryl Burgess does this really well. Take the post in the screen shot above as an example that Cheryl wrote for the AT&T small business blog. That one article generated links from 18 different domains since it was published.
- Posts like this are HARD WORK. To successfully craft and create a post with a bunch of interviews is a lot like herding cats. Getting the information in the format you want can be difficult. Be patient. Be persistent. Be clear about what you are looking for. It will all pay off in the end.
- Follow up with your list of experts after the post is live and encourage them to share. One of the tactics I have used with some success in situations like these is to create a half dozen suggested tweets for them and include the tweets in the follow up email. Experts are often VERY busy people and making it as easy as possible for them to share your work can pay dividends.
9. Use Stock Business Assets Creatively
One of my favorite ways to create links to your site is to break out of the dull routine of standard business practices and do something remarkable or extraordinary. Take, for example, the About Us page for Lateral in the screen capture above. Rather than another BORING about us, they’ve created an interactive experience – something that involved the website visitor in an unexpected way. When you mouse over a team member, that team member’s picture turns to color from black and white – and every other team member looks at the image that is now color.
And that page has generated links from 432 links from 103 different websites. Wait. Make that 104. So smart.
- Think creatively about all your standards business assets. About Us Pages. Business Cards. Did I mention Business Cards? 404 Error Pages. Take the things other business just go through the motions with and do something genuinely remarkable.
10. Share, Share, Share and Share Some More
One of the easiest ways to build links is to share the creative work of others. This may not work all that well unless you already have an audience built, but if you have gained permission to share that work with a link back to the original source, who’s to say other bloggers don’t re-share and credit your site with a link?
Here’s a great example.
Have you see this graphic before?
It was created, best as I can tell, but an agency called Neutron LLC.
It was later re-shared by the website Ads of the World. The Ads of the World page? Linked to by 116 different domains. The original neutron version? Two links. Two.
- Consider assembling all the best shares you shared on social media during the week and doing a roundup post every Friday that includes all those original elements. Be sure to link back to the original sources from your blog post.
- Consider mashing up elements – what about pairing this sharing idea with a contest encouraging your visitors to vote on their favorite piece of shared content throughout the year?
Link Building Techniques – Conclusion
There you have it. 10 great link building techniques to improve the link profile of your website or blog.
There are many, many, many other ways to build links. These are the ways that tend to generate links in bunches and bunches.
What have you see with your website? What sorts of link building techniques have worked best for you over the years?
Featured image courtesy of Anonymous9000 via creative commons on Flickr.
Thank you for sharing these 10 ways to build links that still work today. I believe that one of the best ways is to write a content that is worth reading and sharing. A content that our readers would love to read and share. With this, there is a possibility that we will rank in search engines. I will disseminate this information to my friends. Again, thanks!
Just a quick thanks for the video on wordpress.tv today.
Really simple to follow. The message in a nut shell "Work Harder"
I know you have touched on it (indirectly) and only works with certain visual sites, but Pinterest is great for creating links too (as well as identifying link opportunities). Infographics, food recipes, products etc... and hope the re-pins and traffic come in.
I'll make this list even greater by adding one more: helping.
By helping other sites, organisations, companies You can earn a lot of natural, worthy links. Nice list!
Thanks for sharing a real helpful note on link building as its the backbone of the whole SEO campaign. :)
Great post and seems that it was epic enough to get you the top spot in the SERP. However, I would recommend that you go back and proofread it as I noticed several typos in just the first few paragraphs that are likely to distract readers. Otherwise, everything's great!
It' really awesome, excellent post. I Bookmarked it. I am new to blogging and hungry for SEO tricks. Your post is really useful.
The things that you have shorted out are the main points for some SEO and they are using only this techniques. Sharing, press release, guest post are the thins that satisfies some SEOs and they are effective too. I like your views regarding SEO techniques.
Sean - it's so good to see "Create Amazing Content" as the #1 link-building technique. In such a comprehensive, rock-solid list of techniques, it means a LOT to see it placed in the #1 slot. Excellent.
I'm quoting you in my Friday Round-up of Great Marketing Quotes of the Week. Look for it on Friday!
By the way, I've been searching for the silhouette graphic for a presentation, thanks for that Sean :)
Andy and i had actually had a great dialogue about "traffic." I think traffic is a lousy metric. He said "Where there is traffic there is hope." I still think I'm right because "hope" is a weak strategy : )
Nevertheless, the world is the world and we have to deal with it. If we step back and really evaluate what we're doing -- creating links, quotes, and infographics by the metric tonne to trick Google into directing people to our site, it doesn't seem like a very noble activity. There has to be a better way to run a business?
If this looks like hard work...well, that's because it is.
Great, great post. Thanks for the kick in the pants...
Here's a recent example from #8 - just came out today from my friend Marc Pitman. http://fundraisingcoach.com/2013/05/06/21-social-media-tips-for-nonprofits-from-top-experts/
Excellent post and ideas! I think the key element here is that you have to work hard and be excellent to earn links in 2013. It should have always been this way, but now it truly is.
Happy link building...
@Skapski SEO Agreed. At the end of the day it's all about adding value to your audience, whomever they may be. Great point!
@blwinters Thanks for the heads up! I appreciate the feedback!
@JenniferAaliyah Thanks Jennifer! Appreciate the feedback.
@nickkellet Hahahaha. Thanks Nick.
Yes. I liked Andy's Listly list so much I re-created it with my own guest posts this year. Imitation is the sincerest form of theft, or something like that. :)
@nadeem_saifal Glad to be of help Nadeem.
@Peter Zwart Thanks so much Peter.
@RonVanPeursem Thanks Ron. I look forward to checking that out when it's live!
@ginidietrich Hahaha. Nice.
@Shonali Thanks Shonali. It took a while.
Part of the issue is I'm a slow writer. The other part is I would set it aside in favor of something more important for a while and then come back to it. I would say I have 12-15 hours total into it.
@markwschaefer You crack me up Mark :) Sure, this post says link building, but we know better.
This is about creating content experiences that inspire actions. Linking is just one of those actions. SEOs can chase the links and that's fine. There's no tricking that I can see.
The intentional creation of information and media experiences like these examples based on target audience insight is the win. The result extends far beyond links and social shares.
@markwschaefer I got into the same discussion while a gust on #MetricsChat on Twitter a few weeks ago Mark.
If your business acquires customers via the web, then you have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is traffic/awareness.
I agree that its not the best metric to measure, but it is/can be a leading indicator to success. If you have a certain amount of traffic and a certain amount of business, then you can calculate your conversion rate. There are three things you can do to earn more business (the only metric that matters).
1. Bring in more traffic and assume it converts at the same rate;
2. Improve your conversion rate via better marketing, design or technology;
3. Improve your targeting and bring better visitors to your site.
I prefer to work on all three simultaneously. But you still need to be measuring something so you know what your benchmarks are for improvement, yes?
@davevandewalle Thanks Dave. I certainly believe it. Link building is very hard work, as I've said before (http://312digital.com/link-building-hard/). The automated shit that used to work, no longer works (thankfully). It's actually created some real, serious issues for SEO agencies that had such success with those tactics in the past.
@Legalwebguru Very true. Quality link building is hard work (as it always was). I've often said that the value of any linkbuilding activity is inversely related to its scalability.
If a certain type of link building was free, easy and valuable, everyone would do it and all that would happen is the total amount of SEO every site that cared about traffic would just be raised by that amount.
@blfarris Thanks Brad. I appreciate the feedback (as always).