131 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Seo


, July 10, 2002

By Robin Nobles, Eric Ward, and John Alexander, Guest Writers
SearchDay, July 11, 2002

In search engine optimization, “off page” factors have become more and more important as they relate to rankings. In particular, solid link popularity can literally make or break a site with the search engines.

Before we go any further, what is “link popularity”? In very simplistic terms, link popularity refers to the number and quality of the incoming links that are pointing to your site. These other sites consider your site important enough to link to. So, in the engine’s view, your site is considered important as well. What is meant by “link popularity” can get much more complex, which is discussed further in this article.

However, one of the most difficult areas of SEO is building link popularity. Why? Because the engines don’t want “artificially created” (or useless) links, so there are no easy ways to build link popularity. The days of link farms and huge link exchange programs are over. Try those strategies now and you can easily find yourself booted out of an engine.

Rather, the engines want links from authoritative sites, or links from sites that share the same focus as your site.

But besides the link popularity you gain by getting an authoritative site to link to you, you also gain additional visibility for your Web site. So, when working on building link popularity, don’t forget those two basic reasons for requesting links.

The Purpose of this Article

Because building link popularity is one of the most difficult and time consuming aspects of search engine marketing, we decided to join forces with each other and with other search engine optimizers to create a list of legitimate ways you can build link popularity for your site.

When looking through this list, you may find strategies that are subject to abuse. If you use them as recommended in this article, you will have no problems. Abuse them, and you’re treading in potentially dangerous waters.

Stephen Baker with Fast said one of the most memorable statements I’ve heard as it relates to what the engines like or don’t like to see. He said:

“Our position is pretty straight forward…it’s not the technique that we are concerned about, it’s the intention.”

So, always keep that statement in mind when you consider linking or any other strategies for your Web site. Analyze your intentions, and if you wouldn’t mind an engine knowing what you’re doing, your intentions are okay.

Now that we’ve gotten the preliminaries out of the way, let’s get down to business: learning ways to increase the link popularity of our sites. To write this article, we went to professional search engine optimizers for their ideas. After each strategy, we briefly attributed it to the SEO who sent it to us, and then we provided a list of all contributors along with their companies and URL’s at the end of the article.

Keep in mind that these strategies aren’t in any particular order. Also, keep in mind that though it isn’t always stated explicitly, we’re always referring to “related” and “important” or “authoritative” sites as our targets.

Start with the Basics:

NOTE: Link to all contributor web sites can be found at the end of this article.

Before you begin link seeking, you might want to read the article, “A Linking-Campaign Primer”:http://www.ericward.com/articles/primer.html(Eric Ward, President, NetPOST and URLwire)

This is by far the oldest and best-known method of improving link popularity. Basically you email or contact the Webmaster of a site that is complementary but generally not competitive to your own. You ask them to link to your site while outlining the benefits of doing so. You would generally offer to link back to them in exchange for this courtesy. Be sure you have developed genuine content on your Web site of interest to the trading partner. Explain the advantages to them and to their visitors by providing a link to your content. Tell them where the link on your site will be or set the link up in advance with the stipulation that you’ll be glad to leave it there if they’ll add a link to you in kind. Take the time to look over their site and then suggest where a link to you might be appropriate. Most importantly, personalize your emails! You must distinguish yourself from all the spam they receive daily. If the link is particularly important to you, call them personally or write them a letter or send a fax to show them you’re serious. (Brent Winters of First Place Software)

Here’s the simple means to find those good links. Go to the major search engines. Search for your target keywords. Look at the pages that appear in the top results. Now visit those pages and ask the site owners if they will link to you. Not everyone will, especially sites that are extremely competitive with you. However, there will be non-competitive sites that will link to you — especially if you offer to link back. Why is this system good? By searching for your target keywords, you’ll find the pages that the search engines themselves are telling you are good, as evidenced by the fact that they rank well. Hence, links from these pages are more important — and important for the terms you are interested in — than links from other pages. (Danny Sullivan with Search Engine WatchSEARCHDAY NOTE: Search Engine Watch members have access to a long article by Danny explaining both link analysis and appropriate link building in depth.

When asking for a link:

  • ALWAYS have a link already put on your own site BEFORE you ask for a link in return and give the location of the link. It’s harder to say no if you can provide the URL of where their link is.
  • ALWAYS give them the exact link text to use, even going so far as to put it in HTML so they can just cut/paste it onto their page.
  • MAKE SURE they actually have a links page!
  • GIVE THEM as much information as needed in order to make it easy for them to link to you. If they have a big site that’s divided into sections, give them the exact URL of where your site would fit in. Then, provide the HTML for the link to your site. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Use voice instead of email to reciprocate and try contacting people by voice instead of email. More people are inclined to respond to your request when you introduce yourself by phone and let them know that you were visiting their site. Ask permission to link to their site. In return, you might state that a link back is appreciated but not required. Assuming they say yes, then you simply link up to them and confirm by email once you have confirmed. Warm personal voice contact goes a lot further than a cold email or even a warm email letter. (John Alexander with Beyond-SEO and Search Engine Workshops)

Pre-qualify the people you solicit for reciprocal links. They must have links from other sites like yours, and they must have the ability to make changes to their own site. If they don’t respond to your solicitation, at most send ONE second request. Otherwise move on and take their site off of yours. Send a thank you note if they give you a reciprocal link. (Gary Woods with Beautiful Santa Barbara Real Estate)

Search for sites that rank high for search terms that are important to you, then look through the search results for sites that do not compete with you. These sites should be high on your list of link targets. Piggy back on their high ranking. (Eric Ward, President, NetPOST and URLwire)

Check the link popularity of your competitors, and find out who are linking to them. Contact those Web sites, and ask them to link to you in return for a reciprocal link. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Search the sites of the people who have linked to you for other possible link partners. (Gary Woods with Beautiful Santa Barbara Real Estate)

Find URLs that are currently linking to one or more of your pages and ask the appropriate Webmaster if they might also find value in other pages on your site (that you might suggest).(Mike Adams, the Email Doctor)

Manually search for Web sites that have the same theme as your Web site. When requesting a link, make sure to highlight what your site has to offer their visitors and why they should link to it. A compelling case will increase your success. (Becky Thompson with Inter@ctivate Inc.)

Review any Web site to which you want to link *before* writing to its Webmaster asking for a link. Like all SEO, do it manually. Automating the task is asking for trouble, especially if you haven’t reviewed the site before asking for the link. (Gil Sery with Search Engine Optimization Pros)

If someone says they can not or do not wish to link to your site, I would still ask their permission to link to them. Instead of sending them a confirmation, try sending them a pleasant thank you for permission to link to their Web site. Don’t be surprised if they DO link back. (John Alexander with Beyond-SEO and Search Engine Workshops)

If you’ve moved your site and you’re asking those who have linked to you to change to your new URL, give them as much information as possible. I have over 300 pages on my personal site, but I still have people who will write and tell me to change their link to: http://www.mynewwebsite.com. Yet, they don’t tell me their old URL (so I can easily do a search), and they don’t tell me which of those 300 pages their link exists on. Do I have the time to dig through those 300 pages to find their old link? (Robin Nobles of theAcademy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Sample Link Exchange Letter

Be very clear with your request for reciprocal linking. After you have thoroughly researched a potential site to ensure they are appropriate and actually do have links to other sites, consider the following:

  • Start with a very brief description of your site’s content and how it relates to their site.
  • Provide the exact URL of their page you think the link would be most beneficial. Show them that you’ve actually visited the site and given some thought to the link.
  • Finally, give the HTML code for the link so the Webmaster can cut and paste it directly into his page code. That gives you some control over the link placement and lets you include your keywords into the link text. (Terry Plank with the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Marketing Consultants)

Take care in crafting your reciprocal links letter. Make sure it’s the best it can be before sending it out. Remember, you’re asking for a favor (a mutually beneficial favor, but a favor nonetheless), so be polite and respectful in your letter. Otherwise, you’ll get nowhere fast. (Gil Sery with Search Engine Optimization Pros)

Create a “Link Exchange Letter,” requesting a link exchange with your site, to each of the sites you have noted in your list. Make sure you’ve come up with at least 50 good quality content, non-competitive sites with a decent PageRank score of their own to email. (Chris Genge with 1st on the List Promotion Inc.)

Example of a Link Exchange Letter from Eric Ward:

Hi , my name is Eric Ward.

Regarding your AdoptionSolutions.com site at http://www.adoptionsolutions.com/

This month I’m helping the Hallmark Channel (cable TV) announce their new Web site about adoption. The site is the companion site for their real-life TV series “Adoption Stories,” which premiers this month (June).

Details about the site are below. Please feel free to feature or link to this new content in any way you feel appropriate.

By chance is your adoption news section at http://www.adoptionsolutions.com/general/adopt_topics.htm a good fit for it?

Also, if you have any questions or need anything feel free to contact me at eric@ericward.com or (865) 637-2438.

I’m a real person, not a link request bot 🙂 🙂

Best wishes,

Eric Ward
on behalf of The Hallmark Channel
Hallmark Channel Site Announcement
Hallmark Channel Adoption Stories

Launched in conjunction with this month’s premier of the original series about adoption on The Hallmark cable TV Channel. The Web version of Hallmark Channel’s series about adoption seeks user input to help end the myths surrounding the adoption process. Share your experiences of an adoption and help others understand the process, the pitfalls and the rewards. Every week, follow the stories of real people as they seek to enrich their lives and fulfill their dreams through adoption. Go online and you can help end the myths surrounding the adoption process.

(End of sample letter)

The above example is for a non-reciprocal link request, and it resulted in a link being obtained for my client. It could be changed easily to make it a reciprocal link request by adding one sentence that says where you gave them a link. (Eric Ward, President, NetPOST and URLwire)

What Should you Put on Link Pages?

Create a link page on your Web site that gives other Web sites permission to link to yours. Make it very easy for them to include you by providing cut and paste HTML code. Incorporate your keyphrases into the linking code. Create small banners or buttons for this purpose as well. (Nancy Nelson with Search by Design)

Put a description under each link on your links page. You don’t want the search engines thinking of you as a link farm. (Gil Sery with Search Engine Optimization Pros)

Complete Linking Strategies:

Complete Strategy #1:

Here is my list, in order of tactical importance:

  • First, build a content rich site, narrow in scope [say half a dozen high potential keywords, with a smattering of lessor important but still related kw’s”.
  • Then, contact other sites that have the same scope as yours does, and ask for a reciprocal link [after you have already linked to them, of course!”. If you build a site that is content rich, informative, and above all else has unique content, then all your peers will beat a path toyour door, asking you for a link!
  • Get your site listed at Yahoo [yes, it does force you to yank out your wallet, but it IS one of the best links you can get”. Do the research necessary to find the most appropriate category [which is where the Link Relevancy comes from”, and get that title and description optimized!
  • Get into the ODP. Do the same research as you did at Yahoo for the best category.
  • Find out which of the thousands of specialty SE’s and directories that your site is a good fit for, and submit to them.
  • After you are done with 1 – 5, build another content rich site, and on this one, concentrate on your next batch of kw’s. Cross link the home pages. Repeat.
  • Even though blogging is all the rage these days, I think it will go the way of link farms in the not-too-distant future, especially if/when the SE’s determine that it is just another case of spamming. We are staying away from it, and concentrating on the 6 tactics above.
  • Of much less importance is cross linking within each of your individual sites. I have gotten away from heavy cross linking, relying instead on good site maps [which addresses spiderability, not link pop”. (Rocky Rawstern with 7th Wave)

Complete Strategy #2:

Like Links:

  • Step 1: Identify useful linkages. If you’re a Web developer, break your clients (or willing contacts from the industry) into relevant linked groups: e.g. realtors, travel and tourism, technology companies.
  • Step 2: category-page.html. Build a link list for each group (one for realtors, one for travel and tourism, etc.), plain html, listing a keyword-relevant title for each description which links to the site for each client, with one or two paragraphs about the site. Example:

“Travel accommodations and resorts in Australia”

Save this page as say, travel-sites.html, and perhaps to remember where it lives easily, and make it easily updateable, save it in a directory like http://www.yourclientsite.com/accommodations/travel-sites.html

  • Step 3: Make each of the pages different within each site.

Now apply your site template for each site in the list, to that raw html page, (in other words cut and paste the list into a blank version of one of your existing pages for each site and save it as /accommodations/travel-sites.html) so that you have different look, feel and byte size, for each of the pages built, in line with the look of each site. This will stop most SE’s viewing pages as duplicate content when in fact what you’re validly doing is provided useful related links to other resources on the Web.

  • Step 4: Make a site-map.html. Build a site map within every site in the above list, if you haven’t already. In each site, have the site map linking to every internal page, set out like the one above, with at least a one paragraph description of what is on the page, with relevant keywords, which is also useful to humans. Hyperlink the main keyword/phrase to the pages within your site. Also include a link to the above link page (/accommodations/travel-sites.html) which lists all the other related sites. Save the site map as something like site-map.html.
  • Step 5: Make a link to the site map from each home page.

On your home (index/default) page include a link to the site-map.html page.

  • Step 6: Submit to search engines. Submit your home page to major SE’s if it hasn’t been submitted in a while. So now you have a link to a site map on your home page, with that site map listing one paragraph descriptions and hyperlinks to all the pages in your site, including your new accommodations/travel-sites.html (which now looks just like the rest of your pages in the site).

This simple 6-step process is a popularity and relevancy boost for ALL the sites you have on the travel-sites.html list. Firstly, from the home page on each site, SE spiders and humans now have access to relevant descriptive links to all pages in your site and other related sites. They have the addition of some useful “related resource” information within the site content using the travel-sites.html page. And most importantly, they have “x” more relevant sites as incoming links. If all the sites are full of valid and unique topic-related content, you’ve built a nice little interlinked network of sites for very little effort. And with a resubmission to the major SE’s of this new content, you should see some increased results within 3 months when checking link relevancy. (Carl Watney with Unearthed)

Complete Strategy #3:

Begin a Link Exchange Campaign to create high quality content, high PageRank links to your site by utilizing the following steps, in order:

1. Create a links or resources page on your site

2. Establish a list of at least 50 related but non-competing, high quality content sites with a high Google PageRank that you would like to exchange links with by doing the following:

  1. Download Google toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com) to be able to establish PageRank grading for the sites that come up in the following search results
  2. Do searches on Google for:

– terms that will show search results displaying sites that relate to your own site, but are not direct competitors

Check out these sites, one by one, beginning with the ones listed first in the search results, for quality content, non-competitiveness, and Web master’s email address, and note down in a list the sites that meet these criterion, recording as well the site’s title and description from the homepage source code

– terms that will show search results displaying sites that directly compete with your own site

– terms that will show search results displaying sites that directly compete with your own site

Beginning with the ones listed first in the Google search results, check out each site with a linkingtool (e.g. of tool, go to http://chatologica.com.) Click on Web Site Popularity Check at the bottom of the page to establish what sites link to theirs, and make a list of these linking sites. Then check out each of these sites that are linked to your direct competitor for quality content, non-competitiveness, and Web master’s email address, and note down on the same list you began in b., the sites that meet these criterion, recording as well the site’s title and description from the homepage source code. (Chris Genge with 1st on the List Promotion Inc.)

Who Should You Target?

Inktomi’s link analysis program policy is that sites that link to its relevant topic category page on Yahoo receive improved hub factor rankings because of Yahoo’s popularity. A reciprocal link with Yahoo is even more beneficial. Get your site listed with Yahoo; it is easier today than before with the Business Express option. (Detlev Johnson with The Ascendant Group)

While you’re at it, link back to the search engines. Does it help? I don’t know. But what if it does? What if the search engines check if your site leads back to them? What if they give 1% boost if you do? Would 1% matter if everyone else had 99% relevancy and you got an extra 1%? Hmmm, something to ponder. I always link every important site back to the major search engines and directories as a little thank you gesture. (Michael Campbell with Internet Marketing Secrets)

Get a link in an appropriate category from an About.com Guidesite. The popularity of About and the extent of their quality links positions the network as a mandatory stop in a marketing campaign. Also, make sure to thoroughly annotate links on your Web site with targeted keyword phrases. This will aid Google and other engines in their partial indexing. (Marshall Simmonds of About.com)

Your homepage is not the only part of your site that you can get links for. If you offer an online newsletter, there are directories just for newsletters you can get links from. If your site has multimedia files, there are multimedia search engines you can submit to. If you have other files, like .pdf files or even image files, there are search engines you can get links from. (Eric Ward, President, NetPOST and URLwire)

Go to Google and search for “submit a link” AND “put your keyword phrase here.” You’ll be shown a list of sites that have link pages on them in your keyword area, and some of them may be worth writing to. “Submit a URL,” “add a URL,” etc., will work too. (Elbert Flores of Position Research)

Think in terms of related fields as opposed to actual competition. Are there any organizations or associations connected with your industry? What about educational establishments? Publications? News sites? (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

How many links do you need pointing to your site? More than your competition. 🙂 (Stephen Mahaney of Planet Ocean)

Find as many themed directories to submit to as possible. Make sure the directory is already in Google, has a good PR, and doesn’t use dynamic script in the address. Think about your theme. If you are a marketing firm, look for marketing directories/hubs/portals/vortals, do the same for business to business or b2b. If you are niched or focused on one aspect of marketing, then also look to that for your directories. You can probably stretch it to advertising directories. Be creative but stick with your theme. Once you are listed, it’s good to have a page on your site that you use to feed the spiders: a “Where we can be found on the Web” page. Link directly to the page you can be found on. (Debra Paynter with Promotion Strategies)

Ask your upstream or downstream suppliers to link to you and you to them. If you are a wholesaler, you don’t sell to the public, only to retailers. List your top 10 retailers as a reward to them. Same with retailers, link to your main wholesalers, unless they have to remain a secret for some reason. Advertising agencies and printing shops can link to their customers and vice versa. Same deal with your friends. You could each provide three links and put up a “my friends” page or “suggested sites” page. A word of advice though, don’t everyone call it the same thing and don’t call it a “links” page. Also don’t request links on a public bulletin board. Yes, the search engines have many employees, and some of them have the job of maintaining the integrity of their search results. They read the popular search engine boards…. so be very careful about how you recruit a gang of cross linkers. (Michael Campbell with Internet Marketing Secrets)

Paying for a link at Overture.com (formerly GoTo.com) that is not in the top five in the search results is, in most cases, a waste. Results of six and lower are not made available to the Overture partner sites, which collectively have millions more users than Overture does alone. Like AOL, for example. If the cost increase is just a few cents, get in the top five, and your site could be found across all of Overture’s partner sites rather than only at Overture.com. (Eric Ward, President,NetPOST and URLwire)

Download Google’s Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com) to ensure that inbound links are from decent sites, with a minimum of 3 out of 10 on the toolbar. (Dixon Jones with Receptional)

Link quality simply means how well positioned are the pages that link to you. There are also boosts and penalties involved. If you are linked to by a spammy link farm, you get a penalty. If you are linked to by a directory like Yahoo, LookSmart, or Dmoz you get a boost. What about the hundreds of free directories? Yes, they all help. In my Vault, I list about 80 search resources. Dozens of them are directories. Take a few days and MANUALLY submit your site to every directory that will take it. I was surprised to find several directories for my own city. Regional directories can often supply plenty of incoming links. Every relevant link helps. (Michael Campbell with Internet Marketing Secrets)

Go after authoritative sites. Look for vertical engines and directories in your topic areas. Look for popular sites. One or two authoritative sites linking back to you will do you more good than 1,000 irrelevant links. Visit Search Engine Guide and Beaucoup for a listing of vertical engines and directories. (Robin Nobles of theAcademy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Work on building rapport with other Webmasters. By building up a “working rapport” with other local Webmasters or affiliates, there are lots of ways that you can mutually benefit by trading links with several similarly themed sites, which are non-competing. Once you start working with other Webmasters, it’s surprising what synergies may develop. Remember to give your very best to your fellow Webmasters as these relationships are win/win. (John Alexander with Beyond-SEO and Search Engine Workshops)

I am not a fan of reciprocal links unless they are complimentary. Portals and directories will naturally work better. My logic with outbound links is, “You have already lost the client for today, Dixon, so get a better product tomorrow.”) (Dixon Jones with Receptional)

Become a Content Provider:

The bottom line is the easiest most obvious answer. It’s also the toughest to do. Give people a reason to link to you. Think about it. Sites get linked to for a reason: usually if they provide the most information or the best resources on a particular topic. Is there any reason WHY people should link to your site? How is your content? Even if you are not a writer, ask the writers if you can use their stuff. The answer is usually yes. The writer gets a link from you. And you get great content. Now people will start linking to you. (Michael Campbell with Internet Marketing Secrets)

We all want to get on the top ranking sites listed in Google with few, if any outbound links. But what if they don’t have a links program in place? Here’s one way to get yourself linked from these choice sites. The top sites in a keyword category often don’t have a links program, but they do have an e-zine or content library on their site. So… Write a 300-500 word article on a topic of real interest to their target market and submit it to the Webmaster, as well as to other e-zines reaching the same target audience. Include in your article sig file (or credit box) your site link and an enticing description. In other words, give the site owner something they can use that delivers real value to their constituents. By providing them with an asset, you’re reaching them in a new way that goes beyond a simple link request. A couple of notes:

  • Don’t market in your article. Deliver real value instead.
  • Before writing anything, subscribe to their e-zine first or go through their site content. Fill any gap you see – create something new that they don’t already have on file
  • Market in your sig file only – and be sure to include your full site URL! (Scott Smith with LinkagExpress)

Become an “expert” in your particular field and write related articles. Market those articles to online content providers. Be sure to include your byline at the end of your article, including your name, company name, and URL’s, and make sure to use appropriate keyword-containing link text. Visit this URL for a list of places that accept articles:
http://www.coachmaria.com/articles/articlebanks.html (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

I am hopeful that http://www.marketing-strategy.info is a good idea for link building – giving up “brand” in favor of white labeling. How does white labeling work? If you have a good product or content but a weak brand, then why not give up the brand altogether and concentrate on your content? Focus on why a human would follow the link that the other site has made for you – a compelling reason. That will usually come down to superior content. MarketLeap.com allows you to “brand” their stuff with your logo, but it involves a link to do it. (Dixon Jones with Receptional)

Write a testimonial for a product or service that you particularly like in your topic area. Many companies will put testimonials throughout their site, with links back to the company providing the testimonial. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

A very effective strategy to gain quality links as well as traffic is to license content from your site for free in exchange for a link back to you. For example, we encourage anyone to post individual articles or the entire MarketPosition newsletter on their own Web sites so long as they properly credit us for the material and link back to http://www.webposition.com/ or http://www.marketposition.com/. (Brent Winters of First Place Software)

If you’re asking someone for a testimonial, tell the Webmaster to whom you’re writing that you’re willing to put a link to their site under their testimonial if they’re willing to reciprocate. That way, everyone wins. Actually you win twice! First, because you have a good testimonial for your product/service and second, you’ve increased your link popularity — all with one link! Make sure that the link under the testimonial opens in a new browser window so that you don’t lose that visitor to the linked site. (Gil Sery with Search Engine Optimization Pros)

Create teaser articles. See if you can get the first third of the article listed on their site with a keyword rich text link leading back to your site where they can find the rest of the article. Be sure you get the bio with an additional link to your homepage as well. (Debra Paynter with Promotion Strategies)

Offer something for free (such as a downloadable report), and then ask for a link back to your site if the person finds value in the free item. This works because you’re giving away something of value, and when people find it valuable, they’re likely to reciprocate. (Mike Adams, the Email Doctor)

Spend time building valuable content on your site through different keyword windows. As you do, more and more people will begin linking to your site, as they’re linking to your valuable content.(Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Offer yourself as an expert. Contact editors and writers and let them know you are available to be used as a source in exchange for a link and always push for the bio. (Debra Paynter with Promotion Strategies)

Have an easy way for people to link back to an article or content if they like it. Example: an icon that generates the HTML code they can copy and insert into their own HTML pages. (Mike Adams, the Email Doctor)

A sure fire way to increase link popularity is to have a high quality newsletter or article section on your site. If you have good content on your site, people will want to link to you to provide their visitors useful information. You can take this approach a step further by offering your article or newsletter to other sites with the condition that they link back to your site. This is especially good when you can get a high quality site to use your linked story on their site. (Chris Churchill with NetMechanic)

Use emotional content to give people a reason to link to you. A site built on a single theme may often benefit from using content which employs:

  • unique theme-related information which appeals to the emotions
  • original and appropriate humor
  • content of extremely useful nature (references materials)
  • original cartoon work
  • animation that appeals to the senses or tells a short story
  • something with an uncommon emotional element

Web sites that employ emotional elements often find that other sites with a similar theme will automatically link up to them just because of that emotional appeal. (John Alexander with Beyond-SEO and Search Engine Workshops)

Leave your Links Everywhere!

Host your own affiliate program on your own server. Sure it takes more work: you have to set it up, administer it and pay out the affiliate checks. However, if you use an affiliate service, such as Commission Junction, the links point to the affiliate service and get redirected to your site. If you host your own affiliate program, all those affiliate links point directly to you. You can find affiliate programs, some of which may be free at The CGI Resource Index (http://cgi.resourceindex.com/Programs_and_Scripts/Perl/
). (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

Look for linking opportunities within discussion lists related to your site’s topic, but do so carefully. Try YahooGroups, which has thousands of topical discussion groups on almost any topic. I often send short posts to appropriate lists with links for my clients’ sites, and if you do so properly, it is very effective. (Eric Ward, President, NetPOST and URLwire)

Anywhere you can leave your link, do it: in chat rooms, guest books, etc. You would be surprised at where your link turns up on search engines when you start doing this. And if the SE has found it, then it adds to your link popularity. (Don Hammond at DonOmite.com)

Now that Google indexes the content of newsgroups, if you post to related newsgroups, be sure to use a signature line with your link and appropriate link text. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Ask a question (FAQ) and include a link. Post questions on forums that allow links. Post into the newsgroups. Include an email tail tag. Put it on your T-shirt. Include it as a sticker with each shipped order. Tattoo it on your forehead. Tell your mom. Get a vanity license plate…etc etc etc 🙂 (Michael Campbell with Internet Marketing Secrets)

The number one way I’ve built link popularity is by offering a good information product or service, establishing a good conversion on the site, and then getting super affiliates. I’ve found that getting super affiliates multiplies the number of regular affiliates I’m able to get. All of this leads to hundreds of inbound links. It takes a very disciplined approach, but one I’ve found very effective.(Jon Keel with Improved Results)

The last remaining major free directory is The Netscape Open Directory. What most folks don’t realize is that you can have multiple links to your site’s content as long as that content is a match for the category you are submitting to. (Eric Ward, President, NetPOST and URLwire)

I’m surprised at how many people don’t have their link in their signature line of their email. (Don Hammond at DonOmite.com)

Be Creative and Visible!

One of our most successful methods for increasing link popularity is to offer “awards” (a gif that links back to our site). We create a strong incentive for the awardee to place the award on their site because the awardee perceives a benefit – he gets to tell the world that another site recognized his site as a quality site. One way we do this at NetMechanic is to offer “Star Performer” awards to Web sites that get 4 or more stars on their site when they run our validator tool over their site. This tells people visiting the awardee’s site, that the award-winning site is a professional site run by individuals interested in quality assurance and providing a good visitor experience. Remember to make it easy for awardees to place the award gif on their site. Have the snippet of code available so all they have to do is cut and paste it into their Web page. Even if your site doesn’t support an award, offer visitors a gif to put on their site. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to do something like this for a site they like. (Chris Churchill with NetMechanic)

Build a stand alone search engine or directory. Add your own sites, your clients’ sites, your affiliate sites, your own sites that are affiliates for others, etc. It’s a great way to legitimately build link popularity for all your sites, even if they are unrelated. Some programs will even allow you to supplement your results with ODP. You can find search engine and directory programs at The CGI Resource Index (http://cgi.resourceindex.com/Programs_and_Scripts/Perl/Link_
) and The PHP Resource Index (http://php.resourceindex.com/Complete_Scripts/Link_Management
/Directories and_Portals/
). You can also build a stand-alone themed search engine or directory, with a link to your own site. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

If someone wants to interview you for an article in your related field, say YES immediately! That person will list your qualifications with a link back to your site as part of your introduction. Plus, you’ll get added visibility and credibility for your Web site and online business. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Although joining a banner exchange program would probably not improve your link popularity, you can improve your link popularity by starting your own banner exchange service. The concept of these services is that people sign up and agree to add special links to your Web site. Your server will then display banner ads on their pages. In exchange, you agree to automatically display a certain number of their banners on your own site and other Web sites within your banner exchange network. (Brent Winters of First Place Software)

Submit your site to the many awards sites on the Web. If you win, you get to place that award on the site and the award site usually links to your site from theirs as a bonus. (Judith Silver with Coollawyer.com)

Go to sites that offer “free” Web space and create a small (3 to 5 page) site on the same subject as your own site. Link it back to your site. Submit the new site to the SE’s for indexing. It isn’t an obvious self promotion and it should get you some credit for link relevance. Just make sure that the “free” site is one that the SE’s will index. (Ron Gotcher with GotcherLaw.com) (Author’s Note: And, make sure that the content on the new, free site is valuable and useful to both the engines and the search engine public.)

If you have your own server, or if you can work out a deal with your ISP for extra IP addresses, register URLs and point them to the extra IP addresses and do the same thing described above. URL registration has gotten so inexpensive these days that cost should not even be a consideration.(Ron Gotcher with GotcherLaw.com)

If you offer a contest or sweepstakes on your site, you can get free links to it from the many contest and sweepstakes directories on the Web. (Eric Ward, President, NetPOST and URLwire)

Offer a small discount to anyone who agrees to post a graphic pointing to your site on theirs. Anyone who goes through that link will get a discount off your goods or services, and you’ll get added link popularity. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

I have found that it is hard to handle the “mechanics” of building link popularity pages. It is very time consuming to add the links to a client’s site and follow up by sending an email to the site that you would like a link back from. So I have developed a dynamic database link system whereby the client can add the link, logo, and description on their own without having to know any code. We also created for them the template email that they can send to the other site’s Webmaster. This saves the client money and enables them to take over this function instead of me having to handle this task. (Steve Wilson with Worldsites.network) (Author’s Note: Make sure that the template email is personalized for each recipient in some way.)

Host a Top Site. Top Sites can work for almost any topic. A Top Site is run by a cgi program. There are several ways to configure the program, but most rank by the amount of incoming traffic a site sends. Here’s how it works. A site signs up for a Top Site. They add your link or button with their top site id in the link on their site. The link points to your Top Site via the cgi program. The referring site gets credit for the visitor. The more visitors that site sends, the better it ranks. An added benefit is that all the outgoing links from your Top Site go through your cgi-bin and are redirected to the site. So if you are worried about sharing too much PageRank (which I wouldn’t worry about myself), you won’t be sharing it by using a Top Site. You can find Top Site programs, some of which may be free at The PHP Resource Index (http://php.resourceindex.com/Complete_Scripts/Website_
) and The CGI Resource Index (http://cgi.resourceindex.com/Programs_and_Scripts/Perl/
). You can also use the Top Site to generate some advertising revenue. Peruse other categories at the above sites to find advertising programs. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

Do you have a members-only Web site? Offer site owners free membership if they link to you.(Scott Smith with LinkagExpress)

Host your own Web Ring. All the links on every Web ring banner point to your site and redirect to member sites, your site if you host it. You can find Web Ring programs at The PHP Resource Index (http://php.resourceindex.com/Complete_Scripts/Website
) and The CGI Resource Index (http://cgi.resourceindex.com/Programs_and_Scripts/Perl/
). However, don’t join a Web ring for link popularity purposes as all the links point to the ring server and redirect to member sites. However, they can be useful for building traffic. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

Do you have a discussion board? Invite other related sites to link to it. (Scott Smith with LinkagExpress)

If you give away something on your site, don’t forget to try and get a listing from the sites that list sites that give stuff away, such as The Free Site (http://www.thefreesite.com). (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

Write a review of a Web site, then tell the site owner it’s theirs to post in exchange for a link. (Scott Smith with LinkagExpress)

If an established and respected writer, like Robin Nobles, asks you for a contribution for an article he or she is writing, always say yes (if you have the knowledge)! Established writers get published in a lot of places that you can’t. The writers will always give you credit and may give you a link in the article as well. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

Especially for B2B Sites:

A few suggestions to increase external link popularity to B2B sites:

– incorporate the requirement to link to your site in all contracts with:

– resellers
– partners
– subcontractors
– vendors

Remember to ask them to put the link on a page that is accessible to search engine robots (not behind password control). It should appear on a page already showing up in results. (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Submit technical papers to Web sites that are either interested in the subject or offer technical papers for a fee (like bitpipe.com). (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Increase the amount of case study, technical studies (i.e. non-product or sell oriented) material on your Web site and point industry editors to it as fodder for their articles. (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Apply to awards programs. For example: -> Windows & .NET Magazines Reader’s Choice Awards. Any company who sells technology products is eligible to nominate their product(s) using the form at the link below. Top 100 Winners published in September, but deadline for nominations is April 5th. Entry is free. http://www.winnetmag.com/mediakit/editorial/Readers-Choice
 (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Make sure that all employee speaking engagements at tradeshows, etc. are listed in the online brochure for the show and ask for a live link back to your site. (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Submit your site to all online industry and general business directories you can find. Consider paying for a few. For example, http://www.business.com, http://www.allbusiness.com, http://www.yellowpages.com, http://www.dmoz.org. (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Implement small money (or large if you have it) buys on Pay-per-click engines like Overture.com and FindWhat.com. (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Pay to have your home page spidered by search engine robots for search databases like Inktomi (through http://www.positiontech.com) and Lycos. Make sure that page is well optimized before you start. (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Why not hire a summer student to go looking for places to submit your site and to clean up (verify accuracy) of current links. To find all sites currently pointing to your site, go to Google and enter link:www.domainname.com. Keep in mind that ‘link farms,’ a whole page of only links, do nothing to increase your link popularity. (Barbara Coll with WebMama.com)

Off the Net Ideas:

Make News! Draft a brief press release about something newsworthy at your company. It can be the announcement of a new location, landing a big new contract, speaking at a prestigious conference, or even just announcing a new hire. Then fax or email your press release to all relevant newspapers, to the attention of the Business Editor. You can do a free search atwww.gebbieinc.com for the contact information of the newspapers in your region and/or industry. Most newspapers today have a companion Web site and your article will often end up online, adding another new link to your site each time a press release is published. (Susan J. O’Neil with @Web Site Publicity, Inc.)

Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper(s). Just make sure you aren’t saying nasty controversial things! Many newspapers are mirrored online nowadays. (Don Hammond at DonOmite.com)

If you belong to professional organizations, your local Chamber of Commerce, etc., see if they will give you a link. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

Contact your local radio and television stations and offer your expert knowledge as a source. This may get you a link on their site. If you get the gig – get the link. (Debra Paynter with Promotion Strategies)

Set aside a certain amount of money to use to join associations within your industry. Make sure they have a good site with great PR and that they list links to their members sites. See if they accept articles, teaser articles, or are interested in using you as a source in exchange for additional links. (Debra Paynter with Promotion Strategies)

Put your URL on your stationary, business cards, off-the-Web advertising, invoices, statements, print publications, T-shirts, promotional items, anywhere you can think of. The more times that people see your URL or business name, the better chance you’ll have at their remembering and recognizing your site and eventually visiting. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Keep Track of What You’re Doing:

Research your competition. During the process, open a spreadsheet and start making lists from the information you find. The standards include: general directories, themed directories, link partnerships to explore, and the biggie – PR or public relations. I consider PR as all the oddball links your competition gets, either an actual Press Release you find listed on a Web site, an article they’ve written that’s placed or a quote with a link back to your domain. Look at your main keywords during this research and the top competitors for each. It’s not just who is linking to them but the relationships and patterns you see developed. This information is invaluable in structuring your link popularity campaign. (Debra Paynter with Promotion Strategies)

Create a spreadsheet and detail who you’ve contacted, when and the results. Or if you have a contact database (ACT!, Access, FileMaker Pro, etc.), use that contact’s “notes” field to keep a record of this information. (Gil Sery with Search Engine Optimization Pros)

Open a spreadsheet for general directories (themed directories or link partners – whatever you are working on). At the top of the page in copy/paste form, list in order the pertinent information that directories look for in a submission. Have all that information ready ahead of time to make the process run quick and easy. In one column list the URL of the site, in another list the category you are submitting to, the next list the page you are submitting, then a column for the date you submitted and one for the date you are accepted. This information will help you to know where you’ve been and where you are going. An additional tip I like to follow is to come up with 3-5 variations of a title with the most crucial keyword phrase included. I then rotate these variations of the title, with each submission. You say the same thing but in more than one manner. I also create at least two descriptions, a long and a short form and I am sure to maximize the use of keywords in submissions. You want these to sell in that you want click-thrus and you want them keyword rich for search. (Debra Paynter with Promotion Strategies)

Check out the affirmative replies for a link exchange, and make sure they have uploaded a link back to your site from theirs. If they haven’t, politely email them and notify them of it, with your thanks. (Chris Genge with 1st on the List Promotion Inc.)

A few weeks after you’ve received the reciprocal link, check the people who have linked to you to make sure they’re still linked. (Sites change policies and go 404, no dead weight and no free riders) (Gary Woods with Beautiful Santa Barbara Real Estate)

Monitor your site on a monthly basis utilizing a linking tool to ensure that all the links are still in place. If they’re not, email the site politely, mentioning same and asking them to reinstate the link. If they don’t, remove your link to them from your resource page. (Chris Genge with 1st on the List Promotion Inc.)

Link Checking Services and Information:

Check your link popularity at Link Popularity Check.com, which will give your link popularity for Lycos/Fast, AltaVista, and MSN. The service, which is provided by First Place Software, will even send you a weekly or monthly report showing your link popularity in those engines. (Brent Winters of First Place Software)

You can also check your link popularity at LinkPopularity.com to learn your link pop for Google, HotBot, and AltaVista. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Visit LinkPromotion.com for a step-by-step walk through of how to increase your link popularity.(Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Software or Services:

LinkagExpress is a hand-tailored link popularity service at http://www.linkagexpress.com. They go out and find you link partners to link to you in exchange for reciprocal links. You need to put up one page on your site with link partners on it (and have a small link on your main page to it). You could do this yourself of course, but it is very time consuming work. We are up 62 unique visitors a day already…which computes out to 1,860 new visitors a month. The fee I paid is a one-time fee. The traffic is forever. (Terry Dean at NetBreakThroughs.com)

OptiLink is a software program for determining from 4 major engines the overall theme of your site by analyzing and evaluating the incoming and outgoing links to your pages. OptiLink records the text others use to link to you, their title page words and your keywords on your page so you can isolate problem areas with your pages Reputation and Topic. Visithttp://www.optitext.com/optilink/index.html for more information. (Terry Plank with the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Marketing Consultants)

Zeus is a link popularity building software program that you “train” to go out and find links that are related in focus or theme to your own site. Once it finds those links, you go through them and pick and choose which ones are of quality and are appropriate for your site. Using Zeus, you can create your own personalized email to be sent out to sites asking them if they will link back to you, and it will also set up an individualized links page. (Robin Nobles of theAcademy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops) (Author’s Note: Use Zeus in the way the creator intended and it won’t be considered “spam.” This is a great program, but like many SEO strategies, it has the potential for being abused. Don’t abuse it!)

Hire a high school student part time to hunt for related links for you. Give that person very specific instructions. If the student is going to send out email on your behalf, craft the email very carefully yourself, and make sure the student includes all of the pertinent information to make the request appear to be personally sent and not a blanket email. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

You can use a free service like TrackEngine (http://www.trackengine.com) and your favorite search engine to create a free link tracking alert service that sends you email any time a search engine finds a new link to your site, or your competitors. (Eric Ward, President, NetPOST and URLwire)

Use the “linked” facility at Spyonit.com (http://www.spyonit.com/Home) to be automatically notified whenever anyone else on the Web links to your Web site! (Nancy Nelson with Search by Design)

Things to Avoid

Don’t participate in link popularity farms. Don’t participate in programs that send out emails soliciting people to swap links (link spamming). Never place a link on your own site for the sole purpose of trading link popularity. Only place links that are valuable to your readers. Never try to get low-integrity Web sites to link to you. The link will actually hurt your site, not help it. (Mike Adams, the Email Doctor)

Create your link directory to be tightly themed. DO NOT include directory listings unless they match the themes or subjects of your Web site. (David Notestine of Cyber-Robotics)

Tell people to LINK OFF. Yes, it’s really odd. Turns out my marketing site was also known for wicker furniture and adult chat among other things. Huh? Yes, a couple of sites thought it would be a good idea to link to me, just because I do well in the search engines. The problem was their links didn’t make sense as they were totally off topic. We both ended up getting penalized. Usually you cannot make people remove incoming links, unless they are infringing on some kind of patent. But if you kindly explain that what they are doing is actually giving their site a penalty and hurting their findability, the links come down pretty fast. What they are doing is building the reputation of my page with what they say in their outgoing links. If what the links say do not match the topic of my page, the search engine gives the page containing the link a penalty. Simply put: Reputation is what a page is known for. What incoming links say the page is about. Topic is what the page is really about. The actual content of a page. The Reputation must match the Topic.(Michael Campbell with Internet Marketing Secrets)

Be careful about who YOU link to. Stay out of “bad neighborhoods.” Don’t submit to FFA (Free for All) sites or join link exchange programs or farms. Using bulk submission programs won’t increase your link popularity either. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Never send out a “blanket” email to hundreds of sites asking for a reciprocal link. Make each email personal. Mention something that you like on their site. Give the URL for their links page. Discuss one of their products. Ask them a question. Do ANYTHING to make it clear that this is a personal request and not a mass-generated email. (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Don’t solicit sites that have their reciprocal links pages so deep in the site it’s difficult to find. If you have trouble finding the pages, so will the spiders. (Gary Woods with Beautiful Santa Barbara Real Estate)

Don’t apply to sites that have hundreds of links on one page. Just like with the search engines, “If you’re not in the Top 10, you’re Cyber-Road Kill” (quote from Ginette Degner of SearchEngineServices.com) (Gary Woods with Beautiful Santa Barbara Real Estate)

Traffic patterns are also analyzed and used as a filter or booster. The worst possible thing is to set up 10 sites on the same IP address and then link them together exactly the same way. Setting up 10 sites on similar topics is a good idea but vary the links, the byte size of the pages and store them on several different hosting companies. The trick is to build your own mini net without setting off any filters. The only way to do that is not copy what you’ve already done, but start each site from scratch. When done properly, you can set up a very effective cluster and really boost your rankings. (Michael Campbell with Internet Marketing Secrets) (Author’s Note: Remember to create added value to both the engines and your users in these mini net sites. These need to be stand-alone sites that are full of valuable content.)

Keep your link directories clean of 404s or dead links. (David Notestine of Cyber-Robotics)

Don’t solicit sites that have nothing to do with your business. (Gary Woods with Beautiful Santa Barbara Real Estate)

Extra Tips and Notes:

Make link popularity building a part of your overall search engine marketing efforts. Spend a little time every week trying to find a few more links. You’ll be surprised at the snowball effect that link popularity building has. You’ll work hard on it for a while, and then all of a sudden, everyone else will be writing to YOU to ask YOU to link to THEM! (Robin Nobles of the Academy of Web Specialists and Search Engine Workshops)

Google uses PageRank. You can either be a hub or an authority. Decide which one you want a particular page to be and stick with it. Don’t mince types with Google. Hubs have many links and are ranked by backwards clicks. Meaning that every time someone hits their back button – to find more sites – you actually score points. Hallway pages or directories are good examples of hubs, especially if you link to them with authority pages. Authority pages contain relatively few links – the fewer the better in my opinion – and are rated according to forward clicks. Authority pages are not likely to be found with backward crawling and most often lead to pages with many links…. hubs. Doorway pages are good examples of authority pages, especially when you link them to hubs or catalog style sites. Hubs lead to authorities, which lead to hubs, which lead to authorities. Repeat the process as often as desired. (Michael Campbell with Internet Marketing Secrets)

Most search engines index only content in the top two levels of your site. They have no idea that links exist beyond

SES New York 2012 is this week (March 19-23). Register today and join Vivastream – the new SES social platform! Find out “How to Make Friends & Influence People at #SESNY.”


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