With the recent “Panda” Google quality update one of the key changes was that low quality content and links within it have been discounted by Google. It means that
not only so-called content farms got hit by the Panda update, but also sites which heavily relied on content farms for inbound links.
Perhaps the most obvious casualty was article marketing. If article marketing was one of your key link building tactics prior to the Panda update, you finally have to adapt to modern link building and link baiting techniques that still work in 2011.
In this list I focused on common sense, widely used techniques, of which you’ll find plenty of examples on the Web. I didn’t want to be particularly creative and spectacular. So if you are Eric Ward or Michael Martinez you might not find anything new here.
For everybody else: check the list to find out whether you use all of them or at least those fitting best in your area, niche or industry.
When I refer to ‘links’ in link building, I don’t just mean only old school “a href” links but also new school links like Facebook likes or tweets.
While Matt Cutts has already warned that guest blogging might be not the best way to get links, it’s still a widely used technique and as far I can see it works quite well. You can get authority links from top blogs this way.
2010 was the year of the infographic. With the slow demise of Digg, where most infographics have been pushed, and the over-saturation of the web with all kinds of infographics, it’s not as successful as it used to be but still a valid technique to get both large numbers of links and good ones as well.
It’s not what you think. Blog commenting for SEO is not about worthless “thank you great post” bot comments and keyword stuffing in the “name” input. Blog commenting for SEO is about suggesting a resource that might get included in the article, or better forging a relationship with a blogger who then links to you of her/his own accord.
Widgets are often considered an annoyance that clutter your blog sidebar. They don’t have to be. Also, they still can be awesome for link building. Just take a look at LinkWithin, the related posts widget many blogs use. It’s not very accurate when it comes to determining which posts are really related, but it’s nonetheless hugely popular for its ease of use.
Crowdsourcing, when applied to blogs, can mean asking people for contributions to a blog post on Twitter. There are even better ways to apply crowdsourcing. An excellent example has been provided by DIYSEO blog recently. They have featured 40+ SEO experts in a monumental group interview on the worst mistakes small businesses make when it comes to SEO. The more people contribute, the more will like, tweet and link back. I just did!
Offer a free service or software package to get links and you’ll see that you get far more links than your paid-only competition. So making sure that there is a free entry level plan for your SaaS app is saved money when it comes to marketing and tedious manual link building.
Major web hosters still successfully give away web hosting plans for charities, blogs and artists. In exchange, they get a link or button which says “hosted by x”. All of the above mentioned can get quite popular and get many links themselves. Thus your link gets quite a lot of juice as well.
Many web design agencies offer discounts, or even require all clients to link back to them. Of course forcing clients to do so is a bad business practice, but offering incentives is perfectly fine.
While most web directories were discounted long before the latest quality update, one kind of directory has been gaining trust over the years and has been recommended by Google employees: high quality, selective niche directories. They must be highly relevant, topical and/or local in nature.
Having a WordPress blog allows you to automatically trackback or pingback other blogs. While most links will be nofollow, it is still a very powerful link building tool that also allows you to reach out to other link-minded bloggers. Simply link out to actual posts by other bloggers or manually add the trackback URI they offer. Even some bigger news outlets allow trackbacks and pinkbacks.
Contacting brand evangelists
I couldn’t come up with a really good name for this technique, but it’s one of the best working ones these days. It’s about finding out who is talking about your site, brand, products or services and contacting them. Then you say politely “thank you” and add an incentive to link back to you. This might be as simple as suggesting adding a link to your site they forgot last time.
Going after competitors’ links
Competitor analysis is perhaps the most common and hailed link building tactic these days by SEO experts. I do not like it very much, as mining competitors’ links is more an analysis tool than actual link building method, but at the end of the day you’ll discover all kinds of links your competition got and you can employ similar tactics to get them as well.
Blogger relations is one of the most obvious but neglected link building techniques. There aren’t enough journalists to cover every company and industry, but for each niche there are (in most cases) numerous bloggers interested in that subject.
Bloggers are always glad to get invited to a fair, be given a product sample to test or just get the latest scoop on new products. Blogger relations is not about spamming bloggers with a generic press release once a week.
“Tweet this” or “like us” to “win an iPad” type contests still seem to work. They’ve become a bit common lately, so try to stand out a bit rather than being just another generic contest.
Free premium content
White papers and other ebooks or PDFs still get a lot of attention and links. Just consider this excellent white paper one by Hootsuite on social media metrics.
When conducting interviews on my SEO 2.0 blog I never did it for the links, but I was glad to see that most interview partners link back to the interview I did with them.
Provide testimonials: you praise the products/services you love anyway and they link to you.
The Ad Age 150 is perhaps the best example of how a badge can work. Of course they rank #1 for marketing blogs. We also link to the list.
Write when angry and offend people and you’ll get links. At least by people who will link to you for being a jerk. I know this is isn’t really right but Google does not make a sentiment analysis. The links count. Just check out who still outranks us in the UK for the term [seo faq] without even providing one.
“SEO is dead”
Did you know? SEO is dead! Yeah, it has been dead almost since its inception and every time it was pronounced dead again to get many many links from SEO specialists and those who hate SEO. It works with other disciplines as well. I do not like this type of link bait, but it works again and again.
Forum and community participation
On most forums you get a link on the profile, in the signature, and of course in posts. Also, once people know you they’ll keep on linking to you of their own accord. Google considers forums and communities to be quite important. They are even in the menu on search results pages under “discussions”.
I’m not sure about the actual link value for Google, but I’ve seen forums drive traffic quite a few times and bring you dedicated visitors who will return. Thus participation is key. Only getting profile links by the dozens doesn’t work these days IMHO.
Yahoo Answers is a bad resource for answers but a great resource for questions. Also, forums are full of questions people ask. In many cases you just need to provide a resource on your site and people will gladly link to it. You can even link to it yourself and people will be thankful.
Humour and cartoons
Do you know The Oatmeal? You don’t? Well you have probably slept the last few years. Matthew Inman, formerly a renowned SEO expert, has been so successful with his humorous cartoons that he stopped doing SEO altogether and now focuses on the linkbait itself.
Consider Laughing Squid, one of the most popular blogs out there. It’s actually run by a web hosting company of the same name. I’ve checked the keywords they optimise for and they seem to rank quite well just by blogging about cool stuff. How do they do it? They check out what’s popular elsewhere and blog about it themselves just a few hours later, so that many people discover it there and link back to them as the source of the great find.
Open source software and charities are so grateful that you donate to support them or their cause that in many cases they will link back to you to show their gratitude. This is still a legit way to get links.
Recently I pointed out that German blogging conference re:publica is selling links to its “sponsors” without using the obligatory “nofollow” attribute Google requires for such cases. Heck, they even linked to Google as one of their main sponsors. So it seems that event sponsorships do not count as paid links.
Many people in the SEO industry still don’t believe this but actually linking out to others, especially bloggers covering the same subject matter and your peers who’ll notice it, is one of the best ways to get actual links to your site. This works in multiple ways, the simplest one being that people will check out who links to them and maybe discover something worth being linked to on your site as well.
Fix other people’s broken links
The Web deteriorates fast. Web pages or whole websites disappear, documents move or vanish. Most sites and blogs do not even notice or care. They don’t even know they should and how they could check for broken links. You can. Just contact the bloggers and webmasters and suggest a resource from your site as a substitute.
Looking at some of the most linked websites out there, you’ll notice the likes of Statcounter and Piwik. Piwik doesn’t even require you to link back to them, but they already have PageRank 10 due to all the links they’ve got. So providing a free web statistic tool seems to be one of the most successful link building strategies ever. This is, of course, not something everybody can do, but it’s certainly cheaper than spending the millions the actual links are worth. I’ve personally witnessed more than one analytics tool go out of business lately, so they must be cheap to acquire. I’d buy the now defunct 103bees search analytics tool if I could afford it.
These days there are numerous services you could offer, but in most cases you won’t be able to provide all of them unless you have a huge team of at least dozens of people with different skillsets. The solution is to join forces with fellow freelancers or small business owners. Am SEO agency, for example, could partner with a web design or web hosting provider. Guess what, you could link to each other as well. Just ask the business owners you already cooperate with if they are interested in a more close business relationship.
Unfortunately these 30 link building/link baiting techniques are not the only ones that still seem to work in 2011. So-called paid links do as well. I do not recommend engaging in buying links, but so many others do that you might end up below them in the search results if you don’t. In this case, you may want at least to mimic the way paid links work.