Link Building Techniques
Guide to SEO
The first section here may be a simple list of places to submit your site (to get followed links). But don't be fooled! This section is packed with step by step instructions to capitalize on 15 link building techniques. I definitely encourage you to follow them or come up with ideas of your own!
Submit To Sites With Followed Links
This section is a list of some well know, and other lesser known sites where you can easily get a followed link.
Please note, I can not guarantee these sites will still all work. They did at the time of creating this guide, but things do change quickly.
Capturing Links from Brand Mentions
This may certainly apply more to a larger brand or influential person. But even if you're not as well known, you can still receive some benefit from capturing links when your brand is mentioned, yet no link is given.
Use Google Alerts w/ RSS and Ifttt
We're going to set up some custom Google alerts to get notified as soon as mention (without a link) happens. Let's say I want to monitor Google's index for mentions of any of my brand or name. Some example queries might be:
- -site:quicksprout.com -site:crazyegg.com -site:kissmetrics.com "neil patel"
- -site:quicksprout.com -site:crazyegg.com -site:kissmetrics.com quicksprout
- -site:quicksprout.com -site:crazyegg.com -site:kissmetrics.com crazyegg
- -site:quicksprout.com -site:crazyegg.com -site:kissmetrics.com kissmetrics
Then set up your alerts with these settings
As you get emailed your results, you can check to be sure they received a link. You could run a whole list of results through Screaming Frog to check them in bulk.
BONUS: Monitor with RSS and/or ifttt
By default Google alerts will send you an email when it discovers new content to go along with that search. But you may want to get notified sooner. OR you may want to catalog the results in a more permanent manner.
You can receive a text message when a mention happens
First, create your alert as an RSS Feed:
View the alert and click the Google Reader link to open it in Google Reader
From Google Reader — go to ‘view details'
Copy the feed address
Then head over to ifttt.com and start creating a new recipe. Use The RSS Reader as the trigger
Select SMS as the action and you'll receive a text when a new mention of your brand happens!
You can also bookmark all mentions to Delicious when you receive a mention online. You may want a catalog of them, or you may want to simply go in and review them a week or two at a time.
Set your trigger as the RSS Feed and set up delicious as the action:
Using ScrapeBox For Fast White Hat Blog Commenting
Scrapebox is normally thought of as a black hat tool. But it can be used for white hat link building just as well. We're going to walk through a smart way to speed up your blog commenting using scrapebox in a way that it totally white hat — just more efficient.
In this method we're going to be using Scrapebox's "Comment Poster" in "manual poster" mode.
We'll be mainly in this bottom right hand section of Scrapebox.
Open Text Files
Text files are referenced with Scrapebox to populate the commenting fields, which are;
- a list of possible names to comment with
- a list of websites (linked from the name)
- a list of email addresses to go with the names
- a spun comment
- Blog Lists
- the Scrapebox list of harvested blogs you're going to comment on
You're going to;
Select a text file (either pre made or you make) for each field.
Here's what they look like selected;
You can click the ‘E' which will open an edit window, and you can edit them right within ScrapeBox.
Getting a Link From DMoz
DMoz, as you may well know, has a lot of value because of its high pagerank and its long history on the web.
But one thing you may not have heard, is Dmoz gets scraped by many other sites — so getting that link can also get your link scraped and used elsewhere around the internet.
Choosing Where To Get Your Link
There are two important factors when choosing your categories.
Dmoz has multiple editors across all the different categories - thus you can choose two different categories that make sense for your site/business and attempt submission to these few categories. One editor may be slow to respond, while others may be more active.
Most people don't do this. Just because its Dmoz, this doesn't mean every page has an equally high value.
Check the pagerank level of the page and divide by number of links on that page. Ideally, you'll want a page with the highest pagerank and lowest number of outgoing links.
Example: Let's say you're looking for a good "Travel" category.
Use this URL structure too see all categories for travel:
The results should look like this:
Look for a relevant category with a lower number of links. Travel seems to have many that are over 100, so we'll look for under 100.
These two look promising.
Both pages have a PR of 4, which is decent for the ODP.
With only 55 links the "Specialty Travel: Family" category would work very nicely.
If you want to access value very quickly for pages on the ODP — you can use opensiteexplorer.org and run a report of the internal pages.
- Go to www.opensiteexplorer.org
- Enter http://www.dmoz.org
- Click the ‘Top Pages' tab
- Export the report into a .csv for quick analysis of the top pages.
Once your top two categories are chosen, here's the suggested process for submitting.
Choose the best category page and make your submission
From the category page where you want the link click ‘submit a URL'
- Follow the directions and guidelines very specifically.
- Wait 2 months.
- If you haven't received the link, submit to your second choice category.
- If no one responds, keep repeating this process every 2-3 months, alternating categories you submit to. Sometimes the best way to get your link is patience and consistent submission.
- If this still does not work after 8-12 months, you may want to try a third category. Don't give up! You can get a link with some persistence and patience.
Comment Links With Disquis
Although blog commenting tends to have lower value because links are nofollowed, and Google does not weigh them as heavily — there is still some value you can get, and referral traffic as well.
This is an easy method to find sites with Disqus commenting system.
The benefit of Disqus, is how easy it is, and your comments will almost always show instantly.
First — register a Disqus account for the category of comments you will be acquiring.
The username will be the anchor text for your link. Although you may want to try some accounts with keywords as the anchor text, you shouldn't go too overboard with this.
Second — search for blogs with Disqus in your category. Use the following type of query;
Be sure to have some sort of SERP analysis tool in use — the Moz SERP analysis or SEOQuake.
Choose results with highest PageRank or DA / PA "powered by disqus" travel photography
Post your comment!
Many of these sources will have 0 comments, and with yours being the first, it may get more referral traffic.
BONUS: Recent Links
Narrow Your Google Search
Narrow your search for the past week to get results where an immediate comment is more likely to be relevant and come at the highest trafficked time of the post.
Create a Google Alert
Depending on how active your search or categories are, you may want to play with these settings.
Also, create multiple alerts for the most immediate opportunity as it happens.
Broken Link Building
Get Your Elements Ready
For this style of link building you're going to need the following elements;
- Google Query Bookmarklet — http://www.onlinesales.co.uk/google-results-bookmarklet/
- Text Editor such as TextWrangler
- Screaming Frog or Xenu Link Slueth
- The Wayback Machine — www.archive.org
- Website to Create Content On
If you have access to all of the above we're all set to get started!
Determine Google Queries
You may need to test a few different queries before you hit upon that goldmine. Let's say you're building links for a site in the travel industry, specifically hotels. You want to build links from .edu's or .gov's.
You might try some queries like;
- site:.edu intitle:"hotel industry" -inurl:pdf -inurl:doc -inurl:ppt
- site:.gov intitle:"hotel industry" -inurl:pdf -inurl:doc -inurl:ppt
- site:.edu intitle:"hotel management" -inurl:pdf -inurl:doc -inurl:ppt
- site:.gov intitle:"hotel management" -inurl:pdf -inurl:doc -inurl:ppt
Look for queries that have 200-5000 results. This means you've got a targeted set up results, not too large yet not too small.
When you've got your query, then you need to extract the URLs into your text editor.
Adjust your search settings to 100
Then run the search again to show 100 results.
Run the Bookmarklet and cut and paste the "plain listings"
Save as a .txt file
Run URLs Through Screaming Frog (or Xenu Link Sleuth)
Now comes the magic. Run 100 URLs at a time through Screaming Frog to check them all for broken links. Here's how!
Set Screaming Frog to List Mode
Select your text file we just create (the list of URLs)
Very Important Step — Get Your Settings Right
You should have Screaming Frog set to check external links and search depth of 1.
Click start — its going to take a while to run and crawl all the external pages!
Examine The URLs With Broken Links For Relevance
View The External Links Found
Export The Results To a CSV — you can export the URLs to save all for later and keep a record of which ones you've taken action on.
Determine Google Queries
Directly within Screaming Frog, you can see the pages linking to broken (404) content.
When you find a page relevant to your site, visit www.archive.org to see what the broken page used to look like, and see if its a piece of content you already have or can recreate.
Recreate the Content and Outreach!!
Adding Easy To Copy and Paste Embed Code
Many of you I'm sure have used Infographics in your content and link building strategies. Have you make sure to include easy no-brainer cut and paste HTML? Here's how!
Let's use this infographic from KISSMetrics "How Do Colors Affect Purchases?"
Let's go through the steps to embedded easy to cut and paste HTML directly on the page.
Switch To HTML Mode
We'll be entering some HTML so you'll want to work in the HTML editor.
Display Image on Page
Before we even create the embed box, we need to be sure the image is displayed on the page, along with any other content.
Return Good Proxies Back To Main List
The <textarea> wrapper is what displays the box in HTML where the code will sit.
Here's the code;
<textarea rows="5" cols="70" onClick=select() > </textarea>
- "Rows" and "cols" controls the height and width.
Place The Contents Within <textarea>
You'll see there are two parts to this.
- Image reference and link to the image — this places the actual image on the page when your reader pastes the code on their page. In other words, it visually renders the image. But the important part is getting the link and anchor text you want!
- Here's where you can get massive back-link value from the infographic. You're putting your own link and anchor text in the code.
Here's the code from above;
<textarea rows="5" cols="70" onClick=select() > <p> <a href="http://blog.kissmetrics.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/color-purchases-sm.png"> <img src="http://blog.kissmetrics.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/color-purchases-sm.png" alt="how do colors affect purchases?" /> </a> </p> <p> <a href="http://blog.kissmetrics.com/color-psychology/">Color Psychology Infographic</a> by <a href="http://www.kissmetrics.com/">KISSmetrics</a> </p> </textarea>
Don't forget to change the links and image sources when using this code!
Preview The Page
Remember to check and be sure everything is working!
If you see all of the appropriate code in the text area box then you're all set!
Link building With Your Twitter Profile
This method works great, and is easy to do, but may depend on your aesthetic preferences. All it takes is a simple yet overlooked modification of your Twitter profile.
- Go to Twitter and edit your profile.
- Add a URL and twitter handle to your bio, like this;
When you do this, other sites that source Twitter for data, such as Twitter lists will end up putting these two links in the listing. You're automatically building links to your Twitter profile and website.
An example of some sites include;
Go to each individual Twitter site. Create or claim your profile and you can further optimize them for links!
Copy and Pasting Link building with Tynt
Tynt is a little used tool which gives you links a traffic as people copy and paste content from your website onto places around the web.
Go to www.tynt.com
Fill out the form to sign up for free
Click "customize address tracking bar"
Enable address bar tracking and save
Then you'll want to customize attribution
You'll add a few custom settings in here to spice it up. Add your Twitter and/or facebook profile. You can also choose whether the title, URL or both for the link anchor text.
Then save, and you will return to the main screen.
Paste the code just before your closing </head> tag. For WordPress users, this is going to be under Appearance->Editor->Header.php (as shown).
Then test your code installation with the code provided at the bottom.
Finding an Incredibly Link Worthy Domain
What's a great domain name in 2012? It should probably have these characteristics:
- relatively short
- easy to say
- easy to spell (if explained just once)
- available for a low cost
- descriptive and vivid
And in 2012 this is very important for back links. Before penguin, back links needed to be more rich in keyword anchor text. But now, you want anchor lots of brand based anchor text. You can't have this unless you have a unique brand name and domain name. Are you bagster the rubbish collection company, or www.bagster.com - the motorcycle company?
Here's a few tools and techniques to coming up with an amazing domain name.
Collect Some Words
We just want a raw list of about 20-30 words you like. Let's say you're a software company selling productivity software. Go to the thesaurus and type "productive" and "productivity". From that, we get (the best ones):
- work rate
Then think of a word that describes your company with an image, a noun. Many a productivity product might make you think of machines — type "machine" into the thesaurus:
Now we have some words! Let's put them to use.
Use Bustaname to check for domains
There's a great tools called www.bustaname.com that will allow you to mix words and check for availability all at once.
You will see some basic settings to choose from. I've indicated some interesting ones to get some great ideas.
Then you're going to take your list of words from step one and paste them in:
And you can see the results show up in lists and available domains.
Rollover the list of more word ideas to add.
I find it easier to sort by "readability"
Then you can add ones you like into the third list on the right for purchase or to save for later.
Use the Domain Maker
On the same website, there's also a tool called "Domain Maker". Some basic settings for this as well:
Definitely experiment with the settings and words to get some great domain name ideas.
Remember we talked about keep your name unique? You might want to find a domain name where the .com .org .net and even .biz are all available. That way you can purchase all of them to protect the brand.
Use these settings to do so:
Cross Check Social w/ Knowem
Just looking at random yieldy.com was a decent domain name - but is it unclaimed in social?
Use www.knowem.com to find out.
Good thing we checked!
You'll want to keep digging until you find a name also available on social networks.
Knowem also checks domain names and trademarks — you can see this one was trademarked but has expired so it can be claimed.
Recovering Lost Links
This is similar to monitoring for brand mentions but with a twist. With this you're monitoring for an actual mention of the URL itself. Instead of "Neil Patel" we're going to listen for "quicksprout.com" — and this works even better if you have a really unique domain that may only get typed if it was intended to receive a link.
For this method alerts will work, but we'll also want to search retroactively. These mentions could have happened in the past and you may not know about them.
Run an Advanced Search
intext:quicksprout.com -site:quicksprout.com works as a starting point.
In the case of a larger site, you may want to narrow your search some more. Try filtering for "past year" and "order by date". You'll have the most success with the most recent mentions.
Then, once the results start looking good on screen, export the URLs using the SERPs redux bookmarklet mentioned throughout this guide.
Copy and paste results into your text editor
Open Screaming Frog. We're going to run some crawls in list mode on these URLs
Then set up some custom filters — a few to trap no links and the others to trap links.
Run the spider — and lets check out some of the results:
You may get a few duds, but this one looks promising already
Sure enough financialpost.com mentioned quicksprout.com without making it a link!
Second Level Link Building
You're pretty familiar with the idea of building links to your site at this point? I would hope so! There's a certain benefit to building links to other sites as well - if applied right. It can be done in white hat ways and not so white hat ways. We're going to focus on white hat.
First, you need to be running a website with traceable conversions. Perhaps you're selling an ebook or other a WordPress theme, or perhaps you have goals like email sign ups. Either way, you can single out an exact page that drives these conversions.
Then, you need to identify referral visits to that page which have a high conversion rate.
Lastly, you're going to build that referring page up in rankings, by building second level links to it.
How To Do It
Identify The Page On Your Site
This should be pretty easy for most of you. For example, on QuickSprout, this is one of them
Notice the tracking URLs that also help tell me exactly where the source of traffic is from.
Identify High Converting Referrals
Use your analytics software to segment your traffic and identify external pages that send higher than normal converting traffic to your landing page.
For example, let's say this article on Search Engine Journal sends high converting referral traffic:
How Does The Referring Page Rank?
The goal of linking to this second level page is to get it to rank higher and thus drive more referral traffic back to your site.
It's about brand names in titles tags — thus the phrase [brand name in title tag] is a good benchmark:
As you can see, the SEJ page ranks #3 for this term currently, and improvement to the 2nd or 1st spot would certainly drive more traffic to is, thus more traffic to my landing page.
Then, using all the superstar link building methods at your disposal, go out and build your links just like you normally would!
Second Level Link Prospecting
Suppose you run a fashion website — maybe you'd want a link from elle.com or vogue.com? This may come in due time. But how can you still take advantage of their linking authority sooner?
Get links from sites they link down to. Here's a really fast way to find your prospects.
Fine tune some Google Searches
Again, we've used this technique before. You're going to use Google to source your initial list of prospects. In this case though, this list is going to be the high authority sites we might get a link from in the future. We're going to use this list, to get our final list.
Suppose you have a fashion blog — you would want to get a link that's passed from elle.com or vogue.com right?
Do a search like this.
Few important things about this search;
- use blog search
- set to view homepages
- use the intitle: operator
These are all to provide some finer filtering - to get only the BEST results.
Using the SERPs redux bookmarklet, pull the top ten results into a text file.
Again, we're using the SERP scraper to get the results into a text file, for importing into Screaming Frog.
Crawl the 10 URLs with Screaming Frog
The settings on this step are the most important part!
You need Screaming Frog to crawl external sites one level away from the core list.
- set search depth to 1
- check external links
- crawl external nofollowed links
Then you're going to end up with a list like this;
Notice some important tweaks to the list;
- set to view HTML. There's no need for images, JS etc to be in there.
- smake sure you're viewing external links :)
- sand sort by inlinks. Why? The more incoming links, the higher authority the site is likely receiving.
Perform a Back Link Audit
Whether you've done active link building on your site, or whether new or old, it's extremely important to know how to read your own backlink portfolio. I'm going to teach you some advanced ways of doing so, with a variety of methods and tools. We're going to break it down and take it step by step.
Collecting Your Link Data
Open Site Explorer (OSE)
SEOmoz's Open Site Explorer — www.opensiteexplorer.org is know to be the most comprehensive and data-rich source of link info on the web. Most of the features shown in this tutorial are available as a paid SEOmoz member, but you can still access many of them with a free membership.
OSE Explorer - Prepare and Download CSV Reports
Go to www.opensiteexplorer.org and log in.
I'll be demonstrating this link audit using quicksprout.com as the example.
Start by entering your site and hit search. The "inbound link" report is the default report, but we have to tweak it a bit.
- Only external
- Pages on this root domain
Hit filter and download the CSV file.
Download your CSV. You may have to wait a few minutes if OSE is busy.
Next we're going to download the top pages report.
This one's pretty simple, there is no configuration, just click the top pages tab and download the CSV.
For the linking domains report, we just want to filter for "Pages on this root domain" to get all linking domain information for the entire site.
Hit filter and export to CSV.
Next and lastly we're going to run the anchor text report for the site.
Leave anchor text set to phrases Show links for all pages on this root domain
Hit filter and export your reports.
OSE Explorer — Prepare and Download CSV Reports
If you've been using Chrome as your browser of choice, there's an easy trick to get to all four downloads at once.
You see them all at the bottom of the browser, and to the right you see where it says "show all"? Click "show all" and you can then open all four.
Get all four CSVs opened up with Microsoft Excel.
OSE — Merge Four CSVs into one Excel spreadsheet.
Create a new spreadsheet.
Drag the tab of each CSV sheet over to the new Excel document. So you will be dragging four tabs over to the new excel sheet.
When they're all brought over, it should look something like this.
OSE — Create Headers and Freeze Frames
I like to make a few final preps to the excel file to make it easier come time for analyzing. You can of course come up with your own settings for display, but these are just some that I like.
Bold the top row.
Select cell A2
Go to Window > Freeze Panes
Now the top row (our header) will stay put when we scroll.
- Bold Header
- Edit Headings
- Freeze Panes
You should now have an excel document with four sheets of OSE data ready to explore!
Although not as data-rich as Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO's index is very fresh, and you can see historic data as well, which can be very useful for certain types of analysis.
Let's check it out free a free account (you must create an account and login, but you don't need to pay).
Enter your site:
The first thing to be sure of is if you want to look at "historic" index or "fresh" index:
Let's look at historic data first:
If you own the site you can create a free report (otherwise you have to pay)
Although the paid version gets you more data — there's still a lot you can gather with the free version.
For example, go to the "top pages" report:
Scroll to the bottom and look for "download csv":
OSE + Majestic Mashup
Lastly, wouldn't it be great to get Majestic and OSE data side by side?
Create your file. We're going to have two excel sheets in there:
You should already have the top pages report from Majestic. Create one again for OSE if you don't have a recent one:
Export to csv and open in excel and we're going to combine the two csv's into one sheet:
When doing the vlookup the two comparison columns have to be exactly the same. You may notice Majestic exports without slashes at the end of the URL and OSE has slashes.
Remove these with a regular expression find and replace in your text editor:
$ is the grep command for "end of the line" in TextWrangler
Copy back to excel:
We're going to use a vlookup:
If you're not so familiar with vlookups:
- the cell we're going to match with the arrays
- the name of the other spreadsheet we're pulling data from
- the range of the table array we're searching for a match
- the second column after the first column to pull data from and bring over to the first sheet.
Next: in order to drag this formula down through the rest of the table, you need to add the absolute sign (dollar sign) before each column letter and cell number
Your vlookup is now going to look like this:
Drag it down all the rows:
Rinse and repeat for each column going across to the right - change the last number (increase by one) to grab the next column over from your source sheet).
Fill these all the way across and you'll have a great mashup of Majestic and OSE data to analyze!
Analyze Link Data with Link Detective + OSE
Link Detective - www.linkdetective.com - is a new free tool. It gives you a very useful visualization of your OSE inbound link data. The tool basically attempts to categorize all of your links into buckets, such as blogroll, footer, blog comments, etc. There are always some unknowns, but for the most part it will gove you a really great idea of the types of links you (or a competitor) is getting.
Go to www.linkdetective.com
Create a username and password.
Then you can create a new project.
You're going to name the project. Then, you're going to upload your OSE CSV file. This has to be the CSV from the "inbound links" tab.
You will see a confirmation message. When the report is finished, which usually take about 10-60 minutes, you will receive an email.
Follow the link in the email to view your report. There are two basic types of reports you will see - link type and anchor text.
Link Type Report
The key to effective large scale outreach is automation. You may be able to handle small scale outreach with more manual methods, but to scale it up and really get the most out of your efforts, you'll need to automate!
You could more accurately call this "semi-automation" because you still want to maintain some control over your outreach, so that your communication can be personable.
Fortunately there are some tools to assist in this process. We're going to take a look at what they are and some tricks for how to use them better.
- Gmail Canned Responses
- Send and Archive
Using Gmail Canned Responses
First, make sure Canned Responses is enabled in Gmail
Then, to start setting them up, start a new draft. Clear it of any signatures — it needs to be completely blank.
Put a draft of a common outreach type email in there.
Then, save it as a canned response
Next, when you're ready to use it in an outreach email — start a new draft
http://followupthen.com/ is a newer tool. Its like Boomerang but with a lot more features.
This tool is perfect to use if;
- there's an email you want to respond to in a few weeks, but get it out of your inbox
- follow up with an outreach lead in a month
- send an automatic reminder to both yourself and the recipient if no reply
With the paid pro version you can even receive reminders via text message and calendars, although we'll just cover the free version here.
Send an automatic reminder to the recipient
- CC: Entering the special address in the cc: field means both you and the recipient will get the reminder.
- 3days@ — this means the reminder will get sent back in 3 days.
Follow up with an outreach lead in 1 month
If you've contacted a prospect and they say something like "now isn't a good time for that link/article/story, can you email me back in a month?" — this is the reminder to use.
- Bcc: this mean only you will receive the reminder
- 1month@ — this will send the follow up back to you in one month.
Wow! You've made it so far and by now you must be flooded with traffic. We've got one more section to go, and this is "search verticals". Dealing with video, image, or local? This section is for you!