Real-World, Low-Risk, High-Reward Link Building Strategies

Three sessions down, three sessions to go. Chris Tolles is moderating this session with speakers Eric Enge, President, Stone Temple Consulting; Rebecca Kelley, Search Marketing Consultant, SEOmoz; Roger Montti, Founder and Owner,; and Greg Hartnett, President, Best of The Web.

Eric Enge is up first. He urges us to think BIG. He cites yesterday’s keynote as an example of a small/medium-sized company that thought big and changed their whole position.

Social New Sites

The first thing to know is that you have to match the demographic of the site’s audience. With Digg, it’s obviously 13 to 24 year old males.

Baiting the social sites is all well and good but ask:

  • Did it help the site?
  • What is it relevant to?
  • What message would it send about your business?

Try for authoritative and unique information. Remember that timing is important.

  • Maximize your success
  • Interest the audience
  • Be authoritative
  • Reflect well on your business
  • Use titles targeted at BIG search terms
    • Article title
    • Social news submission title

Facebook Ads

A fantasy sports trade site became a media powerhouse. How?

Created great widgets:

  • Primarily through Facebook
  • Targeted at sports fans
  • Had apps targeted at different events

Why is this link building?

As they gained traction, people started talking about them because they had compelling content that was matched to the site they were on, the demographic of their business and they met their business needs.

Rebecca Kelley is speaking next.

Traditional link building sucks. It’s time consuming, repetitive, risky and has low ROI. Obviously though, you need links. (You know the reasons why.)

Strategy one: Find brand mentions and ask for a link.

Use Yahoo Site Explorer to find places mentioning “brand name” -linkdomain: -site:

Strategy two: Identify broken inbound links.

[Matt Cutts did a post on this technique.] You can contact those people to update or correct those links.

Strategy three: Take advantage of broken links to your competitors.

  • No longer available/no longer offer [keyword]
  • Contact site owner and ask them if they want to redirect to you instead
  • Contact sites linking to that page and let them know you have a comparable product

Strategy four: Find out who is linking to your competitors and see if there is a reason they’re not linking to you.

Strategy five: Take advantage of confirmation emails.

“If you have a Web site or a blog and you like us, please consider placing a link back to us.” This is scalable strategy that gets you links that are editorial and relevant.

Strategy six: Embed links in widgets, badges, banners, etc.

  • Create a quiz, poll or other shareable content
  • Offer embeddable tools, programs
  • Include a link back to your site

Strategy seven: Create some link bait.

  • Brainstorm content and host it on your site
  • Promote content via social media sites, forums, blogs, etc. Don’t just assume you have to go to Digg. Your own niche probably has a social news site that you can put content on. Research your sector’s link-worthiness. Discover the big players in your fields, what are they doing right? What can you emulate? Analyze the current trends. The election was a big topic for a while.

Rebecca offers up several tools and blog posts as resources but I can’t actually type that many URLs with any kind of speed. Lisa may have them over at WBP.

Greg Hartnett from Best of the Web steps up to the plate.

Isn’t a directory just a paid link? No way. Pay for placement vs. pay for review. BOTW has a no refund policy. You get the review but perhaps not the link. Neither is it just a link farm. The links are editorial in nature and organized, unlike a link farm.

The real question is how do you find a good directory?

  • Have a history
  • Contain great resources
  • Have populated categories
  • Are designed for the user
  • Add lots of sites, not just paid submits

Overall, it’s about common sense. Is it a labor of love? Is there commitment? Does it feel right to you?

What kind of traffic can you expect from a directory? It’s not the Digg effect. What you get is targeted, qualified traffic. You can get your site listed multiple times through deep linking. You will need to have relevant content for the category.

Is the Yahoo Directory worth it? He thinks yes, broadly. It’s an aged, trusted domain and a primary hub of Internet mapping.

Is the ODP corrupt? [Hee.] No, they’re not. You might have heard of corrupt editors, people taking bribes, people who are anti-competitive. He’s not saying that didn’t happen. However, a few bad apples doesn’t mean the whole thing is bad.

Most trustworthy directories:

  • Yahoo
  • DMOZ
  • BOTW
  • Librarian Internet Index — (This directory is the hardest to get into.)

How can I ensure I’m going to be listed after paying the review fee?

There’s no guarantee of listing. Follow the rules. Read the directory guidelines and give a good title and descriptions for your listings. Beef up your content.

Where can I submit my blog?

  • Yahoo and DMOZ have categories
  • BOTW has a category
  • Lee Odden has a post on TopRankBlog

Roger Montti starts off by advising people to become an editor at DMOZ in order to get your site indexed. Chris says that’s a good way not to be an editor anymore. Everyone’s a comedian today.

On to the presentation.

There are two main link building initiatives: traffic and link popularity. Use links that you already have to prove authority in your link building.

.Edu links are not special. However, they’re not usually in bad neighborhoods, and in maps of link relationships, they tend to fall outside of known clusters.

.Edus might not be good because: the pages aren’t authoritative, the pages might be a link farm and the pages probably don’t have good links themselves.

Charitable opportunities:

  • Sponsor a conference or event to get links
  • Search sponsors/donors or sponsors/donors

Pay attention to where a site links. If they only link to .edu or .gov pages, they’re probably not going to want to link to commercial sites.

Roger says that nearly every black hat strategy can be made white hat with nofollow attributes or by rendering the link with JavaScript.

These will bring you traffic but won’t pass link popularity:

  • Blog widgets
  • Counters
  • Calculators
  • WordPress themes


Chris asks if they’ve seen a shift in how people are willing to get links.

Roger says yes, people want white hat only links because Google is getting better and better at tracking them down. Eric thinks that more people are reporting competitors for spam. Greg thinks the days of “tricking” Google are over. The message of content is king isn’t new, it’s just that it’s becoming the only way to work.

Chris asks the audience how many people think that the presences of links will bring you more traffic, not people clicking on the links but the actual presence. Does PageRank still work?

Greg says a link is a link is a link. On another panel, people were asking if nofollow links still have value. He says, yes. It’s still a link. People can still follow it and come to your site.

Chris asks what the emerging trends are.

Rebecca says that widgets are popular still and they’re still a good way to get links, despite the rash of spammy products out there.

Eric agrees that widgets are a smart way to distribute content. But he says they are not good for link building if you want to pass link popularity. You can still do it but it takes more work.

Roger thinks people are more open to forming relationships now and finding creative solutions using bartering.

What about reciprocal links?

Roger: If you’re linking to a quality site, if a quality site is linking to you, I don’t buy into that leaking popularity.

Greg: Some reciprocal linking is normal.

Rebecca reminds everyone that you need to link out. Don’t worry about leaking link popularity. Greg agrees.

Eric: Think about it from a search engine perspective. You have a crawler and imagine you’ve hit a site that has no outbound links. That looks strange.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (1)
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One Reply to “Real-World, Low-Risk, High-Reward Link Building Strategies”

This article is a good overview but it would be nice to get some more tips on where the rubber meets the road. Examples of specific link campaigns or success stories.


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