The Guide to Efficient Link Building

We all know that all links are not created equal. With that in mind, how should you spend your link building time?

I’ve compiled a general list of common ways to get links, and I’ve categorized them into the most effective and powerful down to the least effective and powerful, and about how long it generally takes to get each type of link.

1. The Gold Standard: Dofollow, anchor text specific links in the body of an article.  These links can be from a number of different sources, and can be found in a number of different ways. There are two common ways to get these types of links. The first is to submit an article to an industry magazine and hope they publish it with your links intact.  Another popular way is to contact bloggers in your niche and ask them if they would publish a unique article (that you have written specifically for their site, and includes anchor text links to your site). A lot of bloggers appreciate well written, unique content, because content is like money to bloggers. Finding new sources of good sources for this type of link is painstaking, and getting one good link could take you anywhere from one hour to three hours—but it’s worth it.

2. The Silver Standard: Regular anchor text links in a blogroll or resource page. These links are easier to find. You can find bloggers who do three-way link trades pretty easily. One place to find such trade opportunities is the Digital Point Link Trade forum. Also, by doing a Google search for ‘[keyword] resource page’ you can find plenty of sites that have lists of resources related to your niche.  The hard part is contacting these sites in way that will get a positive response, and most of the time they will require a link back to their site.  I normally don’t suggest doing reciprocal link trades unless your sites are 100% relevant to each other, and it makes sense to do it.  You could use one of your other sites to send a link to a trading partner, who then will link to the site that you want to get promoted. Expect to spend at least a half hour per link.

3. The Bronze Standard: Article Marketing. Article marketing has the potential to get you good rankings, in the event that one of your articles gets syndicated on a popular site. This could send targeted traffic and give you some SEO benefit. Most of the time though, your articles get duplicated all over the place, and it’s a shot in the dark if your article bio box with your links will stay intact. As with all links, the more diverse your portfolio of links is and the more natural your backlinks look, the better chance of staying out of any search engine spam filters. You can easily get five links in an hour doing this.

4. Blog comments: The reason I even put this type of link on this list is because I’ve seen direct benefit from commenting on popular blog posts. Not only do you get direct traffic, but it helps with your rankings. And Google’s smart enough to know that blog commenting is never going to go away, and is a useful feature, and therefore, a blog comment is a useful link to your site. Keep in mind that I do not endorse ‘spam commenting’. If you can’t add something valuable to the blog post, or offer a different point of view, don’t comment. Period. You can get at least ten good comment links in an hour.

5. Social Bookmarks: You can get dofollow anchor text links to your site by just bookmarking them at sites like Digg, and other dofollow sites. The reason this is low on the list is that everyone and their dog is doing it, and these links don’t have as much weight because the main page of these sites (besides the big ones) don’t have much Trust Rank or Page Rank or whatever your pet phrase may be. But again, search engines expect you to have a diverse number of links, and social bookmarking is another popular type of link these days. Twenty an hour is a reasonable amount.

6. Directory Links: These will never go away as long as the internet is alive, so you might as well continue to use them. Some words of advice though, if you are going to submit to a directory, make sure that more than just the home page of the directory is indexed, and that the directory has been around for at least one year. I’m sure there’s more advice from people who use directories a lot, but those are the basics. If you’re good and you’ve got your form fill plugin for firefox, or Robo form, you could pump out 30 directory links in an hour.

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  1. Jacob Stoops says

    This is a great list. Some of the ways to build links (blog commenting) seem to get a bad rap in the SEO community, but I like them because they provide another avenue for exposure to your website.

  2. James says

    I’m sick of people leaving comments on my blog just so they can plug their blog. “Hey, your blog is great – by the way check out my site e.t.c.” I delete the majority of these straight away. If you are going to try and drive traffic via comments thought needs to go into the comments and links need to be relevant.

  3. Julia says

    Thank you for a great article. You described the most common link building tactics that will absolutely be useful for those e-marketers who is just starting a link building campaign. I’ve been doing some SEO for our company’s website I must say I like the directory submission, article submission and blog commenting most. With the use of automatic submission tools, directory submission, article submission and blog commenting are made quick and easy. Yes, writing articles requires time and efforts, but it’s possible to hire a writer to create the articles if one is not good at writing.

  4. Josh Winkler says

    One thing I notice isn’t on this list at all is paid links. While I disapprove of the practice on the grounds that it is a short-term gain, long-term loss proposition, paid links cause more volatility in our industry than any other practice. The SERPs for our most popular terms are always in flux because several competitors engage in this practice to gain or hold their ground instead of continuing to build out true value and provide natural SEO and link building for their sites.

    Are paid links the black sheep of the link building community, or its dirty little secret?

  5. Adam says

    It looks to me as if you might want to follow your own advice… just a thought :) Actually, I really appreciate you standing up for blog owners everywhere who get spammed mercilessly. You’ll notice I did put a caveat about offering valuable, relevant comments ‘If you can’t add something valuable to the blog post, or offer a different point of view, don’t comment. Period.’

    Thank you for taking the time to offer a valuable piece of information to this post. I purposefully left off talking about paid links because there are plenty of scenarios where if done correctly, they benefit everyone, even the search engines. But I could write an entire post just about paid link strategies, which I might just have to do now. I just didn’t want to open that can of worms if I could help it.

  6. Adam says

    Also – What about links from Forums? I know many people think they have zero link weight whatsoever, but do you think so? Or is that dependent on the forum and how well the forum itself ranks?

    If they don’t have any juice, how come so many people are running around spamming forums all the time (not condoning this)? And many forums have put limits on when and how you get a signature link… There must be something to this, right?

  7. James says

    “It looks to me as if you might want to follow your own advice… just a thought…”

    Hang on – I don’t say “By the way, check out my site…” or put a link in the body of the comment. I don’t mind a link when it is relevant to the comment/post. And I love comments which are relevant to the story. I just hate comments which are purely for the sake of getting a link. I have to delete them every day! The less thought that has gone into them the worse they are – obviously some have them have been farmed out to an poorly paid individual in a thirdworld country.

    “What about links from Forums?”

    Weighting may me low, but one of our sites is getting a lot of traffic from forums. We didn’t add the links though!

  8. Dustin says

    Great Post, Thanks for the info and especially the link to the squidoo page for the do follow links. That is a great list.

    I am curious to see if the dispersion of incoming links matters in a big way. For instance, do you follow a proportion formula for your “gold” links to blog comments or directory links? I have heard that only 10% of your links should be from a single source. What do you think?

  9. Adam says

    Hey Dustin, great question.
    We don’t a have a particular formula, but the truth is directory links make up a majority of links to a client’s site to begin with. As a site ages, the ratios change. What we strive for is a broad portfolio of alot of different types of links, and don’t concern ourselves with ratios too much.

  10. Adam says

    I get your point about link distributions. I think that is a powerful thing and something more people should think about.

    Does that include forum signature links? (I’m re-asking – sorry?)

  11. Adam says

    Hey sorry I didn’t answer you ‘another adam’.
    We don’t do forum signature links unless they are in forums where the client would actually be a valuable member. AKA, relevance. Forum links make up a very small portion of links we build, just because there aren’t too many niche forums usually to choose from that would be of value to our clients to spend time in. Travel, Insurance, Real Estate, software, hosting, and other competitive niches might have more forums where you can be active in, but think about contributing to the community first, and then put in your signature links.

  12. Another Adam says

    Thanks… I certainly agree – don’t spam forums! It’s just bad form… If you are going to post, contribute – or don’t post… That’s our view.

    I was more interested in if you think the links actually carry any weight… Thanks for the response.

  13. Adam says

    They carry about as much weight as a dofollow blog comment in my opinion and from what I’ve seen. They help in getting new sites indexed though because alot of forums get crawled alot.

  14. Rob Buti says

    All of this sounds great, but your Gold Standard is way easier said than done! For example, how about I write an article for your site and it is horrible and not up to your standards. Will you publish it or even give me a link back since a link from your site would work wonders for a crappy blog like mine. If you read this, so you don’t think I’m scamming and trying to get a link, contact me if you are interested in linking to my site as I will be linking to yours!

    • Shelley says

      Rob I hate to say it but if it’s to good to be true it is right? I do agree people have different views on posts. That said you offering to trade links is not a good idea for you or anyone. Using webmasters to link to you if you do to them is worth less then 1% of what you could have doing it right if you need hire a copybloger. I hope I was of help

  15. Jonathan says

    What I don’t understand is how Google seems to change it’s mind from one day to the next about where to rank my sites on a particular keyword, even though the links and content have not changed?

  16. Sheri l. says

    Thanks for the great link building post.

    I don’t trust the directory submission packages offered on the webmaster forums. I tried them and they aren’t useful.

    It would be great if you could list reputable directory list.

  17. Shan says

    Thanks for the great post! I have been wondering how I can find such an insightful idea as this. Now, it’s time to do linkbuilding.

  18. Evan says

    Great article, do you all think this is still acurate for 2012? In the Netherlands it is still possible to rank high (top 10) on keywords with a high difficulty level. We will embed this more in our strategy, keep up the good work.

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