The Essential Guide to Link Building

I just got off the phone with my father, who recently started a new blog (thanks to a birthday present from me). His blog has been online for over 5 months now with his own domain, and he wanted to know why things were so quiet.

“5 months and no comments, or emails!?” He asked, “What’s the deal?”.

“The deal,” I explained to him, “is links.”

Like it or not, the most important ingredient of getting traffic to a website is incoming links from external websites. Unless you already own a network of hundreds of established sites, which is very unlikely, link building can be by far the most difficult part about promoting a website, but It doesn’t have to be. Below are some tips and examples of some easy ways to get lots of good permanent links.

Link Bait

The Definition of Link Bait”: Link Bait is any content on a website, that is especially interesting, controversial, or funny, that will catch people’s attention, and therefore be linked to from many other websites. Put simply, it is viral marketing for the web.

Examples of Link Bait

  • The Million Dollar Homepage
    This site, created by student Alex Tew was a great example of link baiting. His idea to sell pixels on an ordinary website was so bold and outrageous, that it attracted mass amounts of attention and links from all over the web, and he raised over 1 million dollars in a few short months. Still amazing to see.
  • The Redscowl Bluesingsky SEO Contest
    A much smaller example of link baiting that I did back in January of 2006. It was a simple SEO contest that drew some controversy because it was announced on the heels of a few other SEO contests. It was small, but very effective. Official Redscowl Bluesingsky Contest Page

Link bait can be anything at all. It just has to catch peoples attention. It may sound like a difficult task, if you are trying to come up with another Million Dollar Home Page, but I suggest that you try to think on a smaller scale. “Mini Link Bait” 🙂

Practical Link Bait Ideas

  • Write Articles: If you have a talent for writing, then by all means write. People are always on the lookout for good content either to read, to link to in their blogs, or to steal and use on their own sites ( 🙂 lets face it, it happens) but most likely, a percentage of those who steal are going to feel somewhat guilty and leave a link back to the original author.
  • Take Pictures: If you are a good photographer, then go out and take pictures and publish them. A viral example of this would be taking pictures of celebrities, or of big events, but even every day pictures of scenery, famous landmarks, and cities can draw a lot of attention. The key here is Collections, collections, collections. That’s how you draw the links.
  • Aggregate Other Peoples Link Bait or Viral Content: Ever hear of the top 10 list? These can be really popular. Think of a topic and go digging. A few examples are: Top 10 Web 2.0 designs, Top 10 Family Guy Vids On YouTube, Top 10 Ajax Tutorials for Beginners. You get the picture.
  • Photoshop Something Are you a whiz at Photoshop? Make something funny, controversial, or interesting. A good example would be how much attention the before and after celebrity and model touch-up galleries get.
  • Make a Tutorial Are you a master of CSS, HTML, Programming, Photoshop, or even cooking? Whatever it is, other people want to know how. A good tutorial can draw some serious links.
  • Make a Video Are you a Video Editing Guru? Make something funny, controversial, or interesting. A good example would be how much attention the before and after celebrity and model touch-up galleries get.
  • Make a Tool Are you good at programming or scripting? The extreme example here would be to make a new Ebay or some awesome new Social Bookmarking site, but for the average joe, something simple will suffice. Mortgage calculators are played out, but it couldn’t hurt to make one anyway if that’s the market you’re in. Make a new seo tool. Make a tool that tells you what size snowboard you should ride. Get creative. If it already exists, make it better.

Getting Your Link Bait Seen
With the recent surge in popularity of social bookmarking sites like and, you can submit your links, and they will instantly be seen (and judged) by a huge audience of web junkies who are just waiting to find the next awesome link, but be ware, many social bookmarkers are (and even more believe that they are) the savviest of the web savvy, so if your idea of link bait is not up to snuff, be prepared to be shot down in a big way.

Dive into social bookmarking sites with these heavies:,,

Article Submissions

Submitting your articles (containing links back to your site) to the free article sites is definitely a valid option for getting links, though it is kind of like closing your eyes, casting it to the wind, and hoping that out of all the spam sites that pick up the article, and leave in the link, maybe one quality authority site will use it.

If you want a more precise and sure-fire way to make sure your article will be placed on a high quality, relevant site, you should actively seek out blogs, or other sites that you want a link from. Lots of sites, including this one, will accept well written articles, in exchange for a few included links. Just ask.

Link Requests

This is by far the most tedious work out there. I know, I did link building for a law firm’s “Mesothelioma” sites for a few months. It wasn’t worth the $25 /hour I was paid to do it. Ok, even though that was an extreme case, asking for links is not much fun, but here are a few tips to make it a little easier.

Link Request Tips:

  • Ask someone you know: It’s always easier to talk to someone you know about linking partnerships.
  • Ask for a Reciprocal Link. If a one-way link is out of the question, ask for a reciprocal link (meaning I link to you if you link to me.
  • Are you a student, a teacher? Do you know one? If so, you may be sitting on top of a linking goldmine and not even know it. Students, especially college students, and teachers, usually get a personal web space. If you have access to one, use it.
  • Donate money. This one is geared more toward the big corporation with the really dry website. You need to have some money for this, but not all websites have the option of putting up some crazy link bait to try to get links. It’s kind of hard to turn down someone who just donated money to your organization.

Hire a Professional

Don’t want to get your hands dirty? There are lots of good SEO firms out there who are willing to do the dirty work for you, but take caution: Be very choosy when dealing with SEO companies. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Most importantly, do your research first, or else you are going to end up paying $200 bucks for someone to submit your site to Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Something that you could have done in a few minutes, and that probably won’t do you any good anyway.

Buy or Rent link space

Using this tactic for SEO purposes has been generally discouraged by the search team at Google, but despite the warnings, there has been a huge surge in it’s popularity. I think the general consensus is “How are they going to know if my link is paid for?”.

Where you’ll find Paid Links

  • ebay – ebay sells everything, including links. Just do some searching, and you’ll find tons, but be careful, there are lots of crooks looking to scam you, so again: Do your research first, and always check out potential links well before bidding.
    • Check to make sure the site is listed in Google by just searching for it’s domain name.
    • Check to see how many backlinks the site has in all 3 search engines. No Links, No bid.
    • Make sure the site is relevant, and ranks well in Google for any terms you are interested in.
    • make sure the site gets pretty good traffic. Just in case you don’t get any improvement in ranking, make sure you will at least get some good referrals (or visits to your site from the link)
  • Text-link-ads – This is a service that basically caters to link sellers and buyers, allowing buyers to take their pick of any of the links from their link sellers.
  • Paid Pages – Why buy a link when you can get a whole page? There are lots of new services that specialize in selling or renting whole pages on established websites.

    Presell Page Man is a service that offers space on tons of “crusty” old websites, which can be very effective for improving rank in the search engines. Publish Your Keyword is another example of a site that will sell an entire page on their site. Both of these options give you the opportunity to have total control over every aspect of the page that links to your site.


A directory is a categorized lists of links from the internet. Most sites that host directories allow anyone to submit a link to be added, however there are many directories that also charge. One well know example of a free directory is A well know example of a pay directory is the Yahoo Directory. Of all directories, is the most important, and also the hardest to get into. They always reminded me of that “Soup Nazi” episode of Sienfeld.

Blogs and Forums

Blogs and Forums are always an option when it comes to getting links, because usually they allow you to have some type of signature, or they give you the capability to post links. But before you go out and register for every forum and blog and start posting links, be warned: Most forums and blogs that are worth having a link from are pretty heavily moderated by the locals, so any activity from a new member that looks even remotely like spam will instantly be removed, and your efforts will have backfired.

If you plan to join blogs or forums, it’s probably best to hang out a while and just familiarize yourself with the site. Post a few comments, and get to know some people before you try to post any links.

  • Some Useful Queries to Find Relevant Blogs & Forums
    I am mentioning these queries last on purpose to weed out the skimmers. These queries are Google specific. Gov and edu links are by far the most valuable links, so these 4 example queries are to show the kind of link real estate that’s out there. Just replace keyword with your targeted keywords.

    • site:gov inurl:blog keyword
    • site:edu inurl:blog keyword
    • site:gov inurl:forums keyword
    • site:edu inurl:forums keyword

Link from your own sites.

Yes, linking from your own sites is a viable option, but just how effective it will be depends on how many sites you have, and how closely related they are. For example: If you have 10 domains all hosted on the same 1and1 or godaddy account, then they are all going to likely be hosted on the same ip address, and probably won’t be as valuable because of that. If you can have a few hosting accounts with different hosting companies, then interlinking between different hosts is likely to be more effective.

Additional Inspiration For Link Building

101 Ways to Build Link Popularity in 2006
By Andy Hagans and Aaron Wall.

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