Anthony Mcloughlin

There are numerous ways that marketers get links to their websites; some techniques more tedious than others but some can create great quality links; others not so great.

As 70-80% (the true number is debatable) of SEO work takes place off-page, it’s vital to gain links from numerous sources and create a diverse range of links that can combine to produce a solid link diversity which will assist in the natural search rankings for your site.

If you have a great product or service, the search engines will recognise this in the long-term and rank your site highly as a result. But what happens if you have a product that is great however you’re struggling to make an impact in the short-term?

The key is to gain relevant and reputable links back to your site. In the eyes of the search engines, these will count as a vote of confidence from a third party, which will increase your credibility and aid your search rankings.

Here we have created a list of the 7 most commonly used methods of link building and will compare each one to the next in terms of scalability and potential link quality.

Link Diversity Pyramid:

link diversity pyramid

As shown in the link building diversity pyramid, in order to benefit from increases in search engine rankings, your site needs a diverse range of back links. The links towards the top of the pyramid are the hardest to get hold of. They are almost impossible to fake and as a result, the search engines see these types of link as the most influential type regarding rank hierarchy.

Link Building Techniques:

All these types of links can be gained by using the following methods. We advise you spend most of your time aiming for the ones with the highest link quality, however it would be beneficial to spend time getting not so quality links just to keep the links diverse enough and balanced.

#1 – Manual link outreach (guest posting etc.)

A benefit and a drawback:

[benefit_list][benefit]When done correctly, the link quality can be great[/benefit][/benefit_list]
[drawback_list][drawback]Outreaching and writing posts can be a lengthy process[/drawback][/drawback_list]

link quality and scalability graph 1Manual link submission is the process of taking the time to manually find relevant websites, blogs and pages in order to request a link on their page or site. This is obtained via finding contact details for the host and using non-paid persuasion techniques.

The best way to do this is by offering to create a guest post for their site in return for a link or two within the body of the text or within the bio section about the author.

The blog host will appreciate the day off from having to create their own content and you’ll get a nice link from a reputable source that is relevant to your industry.

To show just how powerful these individual links can be, we monitored a recent guest post of our own in the graph below:

ranking history graphIn this graph, we obtained just one singular link to one of our service pages which was struggling for credibility. We created a guest post which took around 5 hours and in return were allowed one matching anchor text link to the service page in question in the body of the text and a link to our home page within the author bio section.

As you can see, this one link to our service page increased it’s ranking by 20 places over night. This is proof enough that guest posting is a credible ranking and link building technique.

#2 – Content and Technology Licensing

A benefit and a drawback:

[benefit_list][benefit]The scalability of licensed content has no boundaries[/benefit][/benefit_list]
[drawback_list][drawback]Quality can vary as the link targets can be chosen[/drawback][/drawback_list]

link quality and scalability graph 2Some companies like to licence their content or data. This means that if the content was to be replicated or used on other websites, they would need to attribute where that content came from.

When you syndicate out your websites licensed content, you build a diverse link profile with the relevant anchor text of your choice and target whichever URL you choose for the material to link back to.

An example of this is ReadWriteWeb. They are an online blog with posts so good that they choose to licence them. are just one of a bunch of news media sites who publish their content. This means that ReadWriteWeb are receiving regular links from influential sources.

#3 – Embedded Content is Great for Links

A benefit and a drawback:

[benefit_list][benefit]If it’s good enough, the content could go viral[/benefit][/benefit_list]
[drawback_list][drawback]Time consuming to create and a varied mixture of links[/drawback][/drawback_list]

link quality and scalability graph 3Rather than attributing licences to your content, marketers and link builders are using embedded content in order to build their link profiles.

Videos, infographics, music and widgets are just a few ways embedded content is shared throughout the web. Content creators and link builders will spend a lot of time creating content that others would love to use within their own blog posts and articles or even on their websites. The original creator then gets credited with a link to their site.

A great link building technique!

#4 – Linkbait and campaigns that go viral

A benefit and a drawback:

[benefit_list][benefit]Sites providing links to these types of content are usually very strong[/benefit][/benefit_list]
[drawback_list][drawback]Linkbait takes vast amounts of time and resource to research and produce[/drawback][/drawback_list]

link quality and scalability graph 4Viral content is what every link builder longs for. This type of content needs no promotion or marketing. It naturally attracts links and mentions from other websites who would be honoured to have the content on their pages.

Content that has the appealing factor to industry influencers has the best chance of succeeding, and in doing so, you’re ensuring that the links received are relevant to the industry you are in and the search engines will recognise this and increase the value of your site accordingly.

Our sister site Brandshank recently had a blog post designed for link bait. It was very well received and increased the visits to the site by more than 4 times the average in one day.

traffic increase graph

It was created on a seperate landing page for the blog post so the views and visit data is unavailable in Google Analytics. However, here is a screenshot of the total number of visits and views to date for the piece:

visitor figures

The great thing about this is that the average amount of traffic to the site has increased by 90% over 3 months and the post gets regular visitors and constant engagement throughout the music industry. Music blogs and the like are all talking about it and it was created over 3 months ago! This shows that a great piece of linkbait not only gains links and strength for your website, but it increases traffic visiting it and ensures a steady stream of visitors for the future thereafter.

#5 – Reclaimed links

A benefit and a drawback:

[benefit_list][benefit]Worthwhile pages tend to have good quality links[/benefit][/benefit_list]
[drawback_list][drawback]Manual process and a very laborious task[/drawback][/drawback_list]

link quality and scalability graph 5Link reclamation is the process of reclaiming old or broken links that could be deemed as valuable for your current site or any of its pages.

Websites often change with the times: the designs change and functionality alters and as a result, links are often broken from other websites linking to your pages.

Link reclamation is finding the broken or out of date content and pointing them back to the active page on your site. It is a quick and easy process that helps regain the SEO strength that these links had for your old site or content.

Open Site Explorer and Google Webmaster Tools are good resources for reclaiming your old or broken links.

#6 – Emulate competitors’ link sources

A benefit and a drawback:

[benefit_list][benefit]Stay ahead of the competition by emulating their links and adding your own[/benefit][/benefit_list]
[drawback_list][drawback]Researching and emulating a number of competitor’s links can be a tedious job[/drawback][/drawback_list]

link quality and scalability graph 6

Link builders spend a lot of time anaysing their competitors link sources. They again use link finding tools such as Open Site Explorer to do their research.

Open Site Explorer allows link builders to simply type in their competitor’s URL address and the system provides details about all the links that are heading to that website or page.

The links can be ordered by strength,then link builders look to emulate their competitor’s links: If one of their competition has managed to publish a guest post on a strong, industry related blog, they then have the details available to get in touch with the blog and ask to get their own content published there. Likewise, link builders can identify link sources from directories etc. and look to get their own site included in those lists.

Being able to match competitor’s link profiles and then, in addition, have their own original links, link builders are able to stay one step ahead of their competitors and remain there until their competition catch wind of these types of tools. They could then use them to emulate the link builders! But by then, the link builders should be streets ahead of the game and should be unable to be caught.

So it’s vital to act as soon as possible!

On a side note, Google’s latest Panda update has affected around 1.6% of search queries to date. It has incorporated link penalties. According to Rand Fishkin on Twitter, it is recommended that if you’ve been affected by this update – in order to assist in the recovery speed – you should disclose the information detailing how you acquired the links.

#7 – Paid links (not recommended)

A benefit and a drawback:

[benefit_list][benefit]Paid links are a quick and easy way to get lots of links[/benefit][/benefit_list]
[drawback_list][drawback]Links are very weak and will de-value your site in the long-term[/drawback][/drawback_list]

link quality and scalability graph 7Buying links is a strategy mainly used before Google’s Panda update. It was a good way to get thousands of links pointing to your website without the hassle and for a relatively small fee considering.

However, the diversity of links received from this type of link building is so broad that the sites linking to the link builders’ sites were of no relation whatsoever to their industry. For example, an internet marketing company would have links from pet obesity websites and Russian marriage websites and the like.

The search engines, especially Google, looked to stamp out this irrelevant link building strategy as the user experience of the searchers was jeopardised. In order for the search engines to return relevant results for the user, they needed to de-value the sites with fake back links and promote the sites who were gaining relevant, industry related links from reputable sources within the market.

Paid links can often be a natural link building technique with regards to legitimate paid directory submissions i.e. Yahoo!, but are, more often than not, a technique used by black hat tacticians designed to manipulate the search rankings.

In conclusion…

Generally, if something looks too good to be true then it isn’t true. The same can be said when building links for your website. If you refer to the link diversity pyramid further up the page, then you should be able to build a very strong link profile that the search engines will value.

Building links the natural way can be time consuming and laborious at times, however if done correctly, the ROI will be worth the effort put in. Considering that rank #1 on Google earns more traffic than ranks #2,#3 and #4 combined, it’s easy to see why employing these ethical link building techniques and doing them correctly will lift your site to the top of the SERP’s and should keep you there for the long-term.

Let us know in the comments any link building techniques you feel should be included in the list and we’d be happy to explore them in more detail!

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Anthony Mcloughlin

Posted By Anthony Mcloughlin

Anthony is a key member of the digital team at Tone, helping dig deep into stats to further understand user behaviours. Follow him on Twitter @anthony_mac85 and on Google+