Proven Link Building Strategies that Work

An essential aspect of any site’s growth is link building. Backlinks are defined as links from other websites that point to yours, and they are probably the most important part of SEO and ranking well in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Most SEO professionals will tell you that the key to ranking well in the SERPs is to accumulate more high quality backlinks than your competitors for whatever keyword phrase you’re targeting. This takes time and hard work when trying to rank for highly competitive keywords, but it can be done.

When starting a link building campaign, it’s important to lay out the keyword phrases you hope to rank high for in the SERPs. Many webmasters overlook this step, and it will make it much more difficult to rank highly in the search engines. The reason you want to know your keyword phrases ahead of time is because you will want to use these keywords as your alt text when leaving links to your site around the web. Here’s an example:

I run a small student loan consolidation blog at http://consolidatingstudentloansonline.com/. The main keyword phrase that my blog is targeting is “consolidating student loans.” As of this writing, this keyword phrase is getting a total of about 5,400 searches worldwide via Google according to Google’s Keyword Tool. So it’s not a keyword phrase that is totally out of reach for making it to the first page of Google within a relatively short period of time. And as most of us know, reaching the first page of Google for any keyword phrase that’s getting thousands of monthly searches can potentially be a goldmine! It just so happened that my blog has reached the first page of Google for my main keyword phrase and it took just two and a half months to do so.

The reason I was able to reach the first page of Google so quickly – and in the process earn a PR4 home page ranking by Google – was because of my link building strategy. Keep in mind that this example is using a blog that I worked on for a few months and haven’t done much with recently, so in essence, it has stopped climbing the SERPs and is barely hanging on at the bottom of the first page of Google for my main keyword phrase. The beauty of link building, though, is that I can restart my link building strategy and help my little old blog start climbing the charts again until I reach number for my targeted keyword phrase – I wouldn’t mind getting a huge piece of the estimated 5,400 visitors per month to my blog!

I want to share some of my link building techniques with you. They are very simple and effective but will take some time and effort on your part. If you’re trying to find ways to automatically obtain “1,000 permanent backlinks” or instantly “get to the top of Google for just $49.95,” then ultimately you will fail at running your website or blog. Black-hat techniques do NOT work in the long run, and Google (and other search engines) will penalize you eventually. So, it’s just not worth it. My techniques are completely white hat and Google eats ‘em up, so here goes…

This should be your number one priority when starting a link building campaign. Your site needs to have high quality content that’s both useful and engaging to your audience. I find that Google loves blogs, and it’s probably because of the amount of content that they continually generate.

If you run a static site, it may be worth exploring the option of adding a blog that links back to your website. Make sure your pages contain the main keywords that you’re targeting, including in the title of the page (if possible), in the page description and the meta keywords. If you’re running a blog, it’s a good idea to have some static content that remains on your home page and contains your main keywords. One option is to write a “sticky” post that introduces your blog and contains your main keyword phrases.

Once your site is filled with great content, you will begin seeing other bloggers and webmasters linking back to your site simply because your content is good stuff. Your readers will begin to bookmark your site’s pages to Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Mixx and other social bookmarking sites. And best of all, Google and all the other search engines will really start to take notice of your site and start moving it up the ranks.

Google’s ultimate goal, according to Matt Cutts, is to rank websites based on the quality of the content and whether or not they provide the reader with great information in whatever niche they may be. Google’s not looking for sites that feature keyword stuffing, spelling mistakes everywhere, or pages filled with ads. They are looking for great content. So the moral of the story is that you should always focus on getting your site’s design and content squared away before you begin actively gathering backlinks across the web.

Getting natural backlinks by creating great content is by far the best way to move up in the search engine rankings. Natural backlinks carry much more weight than, say, a directory listing or paid text link.

Blog Carnivals

As the name implies, blog carnivals are only useful link building tools for blogs. This is another reason I recommend that you add a blog to your static website, because it can be a powerful link building tool.

For those who aren’t familiar with this topic, blog carnivals are a way for you to showcase your blog’s best posts by submitting them to a “carnival” of other related posts. These carnivals are hosted by various blogs, and you can also host your own if you’d like. Although they typically don’t generate very much direct traffic to your website, they provide good quality, permanent backlinks that will have a positive long term effect on your website’s traffic.

The best blog carnival site out there is BlogCarnival.com. You can submit your blog’s posts to a huge selection of relevant blog carnivals, and what’s great is that it only takes a matter of minutes to submit to each one. There are a few rules you should follow to ensure that your post gets accepted into any carnival you submit to:

  • Only use your best posts that are informative, relevant to the blog carnival’s topic and not filled with advertising all over the page.

  • Make sure to fill out the submission form completely and follow any instructions provided by the carnival host.

  • Always write a description or summary of your post being submitted in the “Remarks” area of the submission form.

If your blog post is accepted, you’ll usually receive not one, but two links back to your site – one to the home page and one to the actual post that you submitted. So you’re actually getting two backlinks for the price of one. You can’t beat that!

I usually submit to blog carnivals once a month, and I do so by submitting all of my best stuff from the month before. I’ve gathered quite a few backlinks using this method, and it was a big reason why I was able to take two brand new blogs to a PR4 in Google within just a few months.

There are many conflicting ideas out there regarding the effectiveness of website directories. Some people swear by their link building ability, while others say it’s a waste of time. Article directories represent another type of directory. I’ve had relatively good success with article directories, although nobody truly knows the best way to utilize article directories.

First let’s talk about web directories. Many people out there may be tempted to utilize a cheap service that can do hundreds or even thousands of directory submissions for a relatively good price – I admit that I’ve done it!

The problem with these services is that, while your site may be submitted to a huge number of directories, 95% of the time (conservatively), Google will never give you credit for backlinks from those directories. And don’t expect any direct traffic from any of these random, unpopular directories either. So, in other words, it’s not worth your money to submit to every directory possible. You won’t get credit for a backlink and direct traffic is nonexistent.

That being said, some directories are worth your time. Once your site is established with several months of history and lots of good quality content, submit it to DMOZ – the open directory project. It’s very difficult to get a site approved in this directory, so when and if you do get approved, you’ll almost instantly see your site jump up in the search engine results. Another great directory is the Yahoo Directory, which will give your site basically the same effect that a listing in DMOZ will provide. Keep in mind that Yahoo charges an annual fee for inclusion.

The key to finding other good web directories is to only choose popular directories that rank high in the search results when you do a search for “web directories” (or similar phrases). Also, try to find web directories that focus on your site’s niche, because a backlink there will carry greater weight, according to Google and other search engines. For instance, if you run a health-related website, do a Google search for “health directories” and go from there.

A link building strategy that includes submitting to article directories is a great way to get instant traffic to your blog or website as well as a good number of backlinks. Some people prefer to submit one article to tens or hundreds of article directories, but I prefer to only submit to a few article directories. 

I do this because many of the more obscure article directories provide absolutely no benefit in the form of direct traffic or a backlink. If you stick to the most popular article directories, such as EzineArticles.com, ArticleDashboard.com, GoArticles.com, FreeOnlineLibrary.com, or Buzzle.com, you’ll have much more success in terms of both direct traffic and a quality backlink to help boost your site in the SERPs.

Visiting blogs in your chosen niche should be an essential part of your blogging strategy. Not only will you get a sense of what your competition is up to, but you’ll also get the chance to do a little link building in the process. The key to blog commenting is to never spam a blog comment section with multiple links to your site or useless banter that’s obviously just an attempt to get a free link. Most of these kinds of comments will get deleted anyway, so don’t waste your time trying to “sneak” them through.

The question of do-follow and no-follow also comes up when talking about link building via blog commenting. Google has recently made some changes to how they handle no-follow, and if you want to learn a little more about how Google handles no-follow, visit Matt Cutts’ blog.

I’ve personally noticed that some comments that I’ve left on other blogs have shown up in my Google Webmasters account even though they are no-follow links. So I’m getting credit for a backlink even though it’s a no-follow link – sweet! It seems that this holds true for large, well-respected sites and not for smaller lesser-known blogs. Google seems to give some credit for these no-follow links, so it’s worth spending some time commenting at some of the bigger blogs out there. Besides, if you leave a great comment on a big blog, such as Gizmodo, you may get some nice residual traffic directly from that comment.

A strategy for finding “do-follow blogs” around the web is to simply do a Google search for that phrase. You’ll find hundreds of blogs that advertise that they have enabled the do-follow attribute on all blog comments. Just make sure that whenever you do comment at a blog that your comment is relevant to the post and is useful in some way – In other words, don’t write “Awesome post!” and then leave a link back to your website. That takes away from what blogs are all about, which is community and sharing of ideas and thoughts.

Other Link Building Strategies

There are many other ways of generating quality backlinks to your site without resorting to black hat methods. Some of these methods are ones that I have not personally tried, but that I know are extremely effective at generating links and traffic to a website:

  • Press releases (Especially at one of the bigger PR sites: PRNewswire, PRWeb, MarketWire, Business Wire, etc-).

  • Guest posting at other websites can send a ton of traffic to your site, not to mention give you a great backlink from a well-respected site.

  • Write articles for eHow, Associated Content, or start a Squidoo lens that links back to your site.

  • Become an active member of a forum and put a link to your site in your signature.

  • Submit to social bookmarking sites, especially ones that offer do-follow links, such as Folkd.com. Just don’t spam them!

  • If you have a blog, submit it to BlogCatalog.com and you’ll get a ton of free backlinks over time.

If you have any other link building strategies that have worked for you, please share it in the comments section.

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