Link Building Guide: 26 methods to help boost your search engine rankings in 2012…

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Following on from my very popular beginners guide to link building post which I wrote in January 2011, I’ve decided to revisit this again and create an updated version which also provides a link building effectiveness score.

A lot of the same areas are covered with newer and in-depth information provided.

My 3 golden link building rules still apply:

  • Keep your link building activity consistent
  • Trading links is pointless
  • Don’t buy links!

In this post I’ll be looking at the following methods:

  1. General business directories
  2. Niche business directories
  3. Local area business directories
  4. Business forums
  5. Niche specific business forums
  6. Blog posting
  7. Off-site blog posting
  8. PR article websites
  9. Social bookmarking
  10. Social networks
  11. General link directories
  12. Guest blogging
  13. Link bait
  14. Testimonials
  15. Video creation
  16. Design galleries
  17. Blog commenting
  18. Interviews
  19. Infographics
  20. Nofollow links
  21. Review websites
  22. Plugins and app creation
  23. Polls and user engagement methods
  24. Authoritative sponsorship
  25. Paid links
  26. On-page internal linking

As I mentioned above, in this post is a link building effectiveness score which is my own based on research and experiences. It also takes into account many ranking factors like domain age, trust and authority to name just a few.

1. General business directories

General business directories typically consist of your well known brands such as Yell, Thomson and FreeIndex just to name a few – whilst these are a good source for gaining links, and the majority do carry a high authority, I have found these to be less and less effective, especially over the past 12 months.

Here are a few examples:

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? I would say yes, but as a one off task and keep these listings updated if your details change i.e. address, telephone number etc. These types of links can influence your rankings on Google maps thus the reason for the below score.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘business directories’.
  • Link building effectiveness: 6/10

2. Niche business directories

Much like general business directories, these primarily consist of website that relate to your niche and in my opinion do work well because Google does like related links – the one problem I have is your link could end up on a page with 300 other links and this can then devalue yours.

Here are a few examples around ‘car dealers’:

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Again, I would say the same as above, yes, but as a one off task and keep these listings updated if your details change i.e. address, telephone number etc. Again these can also influence your rankings on Google maps.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘[product] directories’. Product represents your niche.
  • Link building effectiveness: 5/10

3. Local area business directories

Again, local area directories do have there value, not only are they good for helping with local search but they can also influence Google Place listings and Google Map rankings.

Here are a few examples for the East Midlands:

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Short answer, yes – because it can influence Google Place listings. I would spend maybe 20 minutes a month finding new websites to get listed on.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘[area] directories’. Area represents your location.
  • Link building effectiveness: 5/10

4. Business forums

As a concept, I’ve always been a big fan of forums – they can be really useful when helping others, spreading the word about your website and gaining potential leads. I’ve found with forum sites that a well established profile is a positive factor.

Her are a few business directory forums:

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Whilst the score may not indicate it, I would definitely say so but this method can take some time to start seeing the benefits.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘business forums’ or ”business advice forums’.
  • Link building effectiveness: 4/10

5. Niche specific business forums

Very similar to the above, they can be really useful when helping others, spreading the word about your website and gaining potential leads – also the traffic you could drive to your site from these types of forums will have a vested interest in your topic and will more than likely +1, retweet or like your posts as well.

Here are a few examples based around ‘gardening’:

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Much like the above, I would definitely say so and again this method can take some time to start seeing the benefits but remember; typically these sites have similar content which is a factor with link building.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘[product] business forums’ or ‘[product] forums’. Product represents your niche.
  • Link building effectiveness: 5/10

6. Blog posting

Blog posting in my opinion is one of the best ways to gain links, take my website for example, over 2011 I saw a 15% increase in traffic to my site  every month. Check out this post I wrote at the end of 2011 about using content to build links.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Put simply, 100% – building up content on your site shows the search engines your website is active and can help with long tail keyword searches – plus writing posts which are packed with info will become link worthy very quickly.
  • Link building effectiveness: 8/10

7. Off-site blog posting

Depending on your website, you might not have a blog or news section but there are alternatives. Setup a blog or news archive on an external blog, using such websites as:

The above are great options but please bear in mind that not all blogs are for commercial use such as WordPress and Blog.com.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Definitely, this can be a great way to show your potential customers your business is active and also can help to gain links back to your website.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ’free blogs’ or ’free commercial blogs’.
  • Link building effectiveness: 6/10

8. PR article websites

Submitting press releases to PR article websites is a reasonable method of gaining backlinks. The one problem you have is submitting the same article over and over again to different directories is a worthless exercise especially after the Google Panda update and their view on spinning content. You can submit articles to the following:

But… there is one golden rule, submit unique content to these types of directories.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Whilst I like the approach the time and effort involved creating numerous articles and press releases really devalues this method.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘article directories’.
  • Link building effectiveness: 3/10

9. Social bookmarking

I’m a big fan of social bookmarking, especially if it’s done right! Like forum posting, connecting with fellow users who have similar interests takes time but the benefits can be really rewarding. To give you an overview, 20% of the traffic to my site in 2011 came from social bookmarking sites, these sites include:

As you can see it can be a really rewarding process, especially if your follows share and bookmark your posts.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? With out a doubt, one of the best methods, but remember you need to be active and connect with like minded people.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘online bookmarking’ or ‘social bookmarking’.
  • Link building effectiveness: 8/10

10. Social networks

Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Disporia can be used to build communities around your website, business and organisation where you can share regular updates which your follows can also share. For me this is one of the best ways to build links and awareness.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? In my opinion social sites are the power house in terms of link building, so start now, you won’t regret it!
  • Link building effectiveness: 9/10

11. General link directories

Whilst I’ve written many posts around this, this type has to be one of the lowest valued link building methods, its that simple! The sites that offer these links are typically not very trusted and have a poor PageRank.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Whilst my comments above do put this method down, I’d always advise spend a few minutes on this a month, link diversity does matter but please make this your bottom priority in terms of gaining backlinks.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘link directories’.
  • Link building effectiveness: 1/10

12. Guest blogging

This has to be one of my favourite methods – simply writing a great piece of content around a subject with is either helpful or informative can spread like wildfire – especially if they are published on popular and related websites to you. My advice would be to prove you know your subject well and then approach blogs and news websites and ask (nicely!) if you could provide them a piece of content which links back to you.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? As I said, one of my favourite methods, this is a must do task – whilst it can take time, these can go a long way in terms of exposing your company and gaining highly trusted backlinks.
  • Link building effectiveness: 8/10

13. Link bait

Link bait is another great method when it comes to building links. Wikipedia gives this great explanation – Link bait is any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website. Matt Cutts defines link bait as anything “interesting enough to catch people’s attention.”

I’ve found this to be very powerful, especially if the content or feature is in high demand.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Yes, but the reason for the lower score is the time required to create good link bait and sometimes it can take a trial and error approach to find a campaign that works.
  • Link building effectiveness: 5/10

14. Testimonials

Not a widely recognised link building method but it can be very affective. Let’s say a company you work with has delivered on a certain project, obviously you’ll want to let them know about it by sending them some comments. I’d advise that you send a nice paragraph which includes your name, position and link to your website in a HTML format – that way they can easier add it to their website.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? I’m on the fence with this approach but from experience have seen it work thus the reason for the high score.
  • Link building effectiveness: 7/10

15. Video creation

As yourself this – when was the last time you sat and read a full page of web copy? 99% of the time the answer to this is “probably never” – using video is a method which is interactive and can host these on YouTube, Vimeo, Blip and so on. With this in mind, if the video is helpful, informative or gives free information, these can be embedded on other websites with links back to your own site. To read more about video SEO click here.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Whilst the effort to create engaging videos is high, I would say from an SEO and conversion point of view, they are really effective.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘video websites’.
  • Link building effectiveness: 8/10

16. Design galleries

This is very similar to testimonials in terms of a method which isn’t used much but works well. If you have a very visually pleasing and well designed website, consider submitting it to design galleries such as:

Doing a simple Google search for ‘css design galleries’ will expose you to many more sites like the above.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? This method is very good as many of the design sites accept custom anchor text and the majority of them are very trusted. The down side is there are no guarantees your site will be included in to the gallery.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘design galleries’, ‘website design galleries’ or the above example.
  • Link building effectiveness: 5/10

17. Blog commenting

Again, another great method and there are blogs based around everything from aardvarks to Zulu, so commenting on posts which are relevant to you and your site is very advantageous. Doing a quick search for “[your subject] blog” will quickly find you opportunities to leave comments on.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Certainly, but the downside is the time required to write a comment worth approving – I typical don’t approve comments such as “great post” because they offer nothing to other readings, so your comments need to be of a high quality.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘[product] blogs’. Product represents your niche.
  • Link building effectiveness: 6/10

18. Interviews

Towards the end of 2011, I did two interview posts with two very well known and respected SEOs. Whilst I knew that others would like to the posts and share them via social sites, even I was surprised just how popular they were and how many sites linked to them. I’d advise that you try and land an interview with a well known figure within your industry, thus people interested in your subject will read, share and link to via other websites.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? I really like this method and can work on a similar basis to guest blog posting – you just need to identify and approach figures who are relevant to your sector and the rest will be history.
  • Link building effectiveness: 8/10

19. Infographics

Over the past 18 months the use of high impact imagery and data to create infographics has become very popular – you can see some examples here.

Now your probably thinking how you could connect this to your business, well its simple - whatever your sales data, top selling product, useful stats around your sector – an inforgraphic can be created. Simply using Google Analytics could reveal some hidden gems.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Personally I love this method, a lot of people like headline data – web users will link to them a lot and also share them on social networks.
  • Link building effectiveness: 7/10

20. Nofollow links

A lot has been said around nofollow links, I’ve even blogged about it here, but the one single piece of advice I could give would be ‘chase nofollow links‘ and as I demonstrated in my blog post, they can be worth far more than a dofollow link. Don’t be put off with commenting on blogs etc that only offer nofollow, just get the link.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Yes, to give you some scope a large percentage of my backlinks are nofollow, as I’ve mentioned in this link building post, building a diverse range of links from many sources is the best method.
  • Link building effectiveness: 8/10

21. Review websites

I’ve talked about adding your business to business directory sites, but adding your business to review sites is the next step, here are a few examples:

Now this may seem quite a bold move, but if you are confident that the reviews will be positive, this can be a great way to build links, it will draw attention to you which may lead to web users sharing your information on social sites and may also lead to a write up on a grander scale.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Certainly, it is a bold move but the potential shouldn’t be avoided, good news and reviews spread online.
  • How do I find these types of websites? Do a Google search for ‘review websites’ or ’[product] review websites’. Product represents your niche.
  • Link building effectiveness: 6/10

22. Plugins and app creation

This is quite a unique method but if you have the ability to create a WordPress plugin, iPhone or Android app – not only will you have a business profile with all these sites, they all link to the creators main website.

If the plugin or app is good and highly used, it can end up on many review sites and again shared socially.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? It’s definitely worth the time / effort and web users are always looking for the next plugin or app to help with day-to-day tasks, but as I said it is a niche method.
  • Link building effectiveness: 7/10

23. Polls and user engagement methods

Following on from a post with Barry Schwartz, Barry reveals a great method:

“I also like posting polls because they attract links twice, once to get people to vote and then for them to see the results when they are posted.”

I’ve seen this method used time and time again and Barry’s points are very true.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? This method in my eyes is one of the best because it could be worth 2 links over 1. Finding a topic to create a poll around should be easy, whether its a product, service or review – a poll or method which could involve the user is a must do tactic.
  • Link building effectiveness: 7/10

24. Authoritative sponsorship

Gaining links from trusted sites isn’t the easiest task but it is doable. One method is sponsoring a good cause or adopting credentials for your business such as eco credentials.

Typically with this type of method, you will have a profile page added on their website which links to you and the majority if not all of these sites are highly trust and respected by Google and the other search engines.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Whilst this is a good method, sponsorship typically involves a cost but for the purpose of search and establishing trust its a great method.
  • Link building effectiveness: 6/10

25. Paid links

Yes I know what I said at the beginning of this post! Over my 10+ years in search I’ve never purchased links but… there is one and one only worth buying and that’s a link from the Yahoo Directory (http://dir.yahoo.com/). In my opinion, this has a similar status to dmoz – trusted and very authoritative, 2 things which Google likes.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? If you have a spare $299 a year then yes! Whilst you can’t get the anchor text you may want, the trust value is second to none.
  • Link building effectiveness: 7/10

26. On-page internal linking

Whilst gaining links offsite is a must do task, to assist this, internal linking and telling Google what certain pages are about using descriptive and keyword rich anchor text links is a must. I’ve found this can go along way in assisting your off-page efforts and modelling a page of content around internal links.

Summary:

  • Is it worth my link building efforts? Whilst this isn’t a link building method in terms of off-site work, doing this small task could be the difference between page one and page two and telling Google what pages are about.

The top 5 link building methods from this post…

So to summarise this post up, my top 5 link building methods are as follows:

  • Social networks
  • Blog posting
  • Social bookmarking
  • Guest blogging
  • Video creation

Notice anything with the above methods? They are all based around social activity and user engagement. As I mentioned before, social activity is not a quick fix to gaining links, it is all about building trust with your fellow piers, which will take time! Once you have built these relationships and trust, they will start to spread your content and link to you, but the long game is well worth it.

Surely there are other link building methods?

The simple answer is yes, there are other methods. Some work well and others need to mature but the above are proven techniques which will create a diverse back link profile, something which Google likes and works best in the grand scheme of search.

and finally…

So there you have it, a revised link building guide for 2012. If you like this post, please share it with others and leave your link building comments below.

This post was written by , Dave is a digital marketer specialising in SEO and PPC, and can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

25 Responses to “Link Building Guide: 26 methods to help boost your search engine rankings in 2012…”

  1. [...] come across this guide around link building and covers 26 different areas, might be helpful: http://www.davecain.co.uk/blog/link-building-guide [...]

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  3. [...] Europe Goes Social! | Scoop.it [...]

  4. [...] Internet & Social Media Marketing | Scoop.it [...]

  5. [...] Web Analytics and Web Copy | Scoop.it [...]

  6. Tony says:

    Thanks for the great posts.

    Currently, I utilize the guest blogging method and found it pretty effective for links building.

    The main problem is it takes a little bit time for writing high quality content which people are really interested in. Attracting the attention from people is not trivial tasks which every guest bloggers should think about carefully.

    Btw, what do you think about Squidoo? Is it worth to present the articles there and build the back links back to your site?

    • Dave Cain says:

      Thanks for the kind comments Tony.

      With reference to Squidoo, whilst I have utilised it, I think you would be far better adding content to your blog or a blog off site which links back.

  7. [...] for now a good friend of mine, Dave Cain, has just written a very comprehensive post called ’26 methods to boost your rankings’ in which he explains how to build links and which are the best. It’s pretty busines oriented [...]

  8. [...] 26 Methods To Boost Your Rankings | Dave Cain | Naturalight | Scoop.it [...]

  9. Nick says:

    Great list, thanks! We are working on building links at the moment through specialist directories and having a guest blogger.

    Nick

  10. Saksham says:

    I just searched in Google for link building methods that work in 2012 and it brought me here. I some times feel proud that I’ve always been working on the best link building methods you have mentioned at the end. I have given less attention to social bookmarking sites like Digg and others, but now I guess, it’s now or never kinda situation!

    Thank You Dave! :)

    • Dave Cain says:

      Your welcome and thanks for leaving a comment. I think you’ll notice a big difference when you adopt social in to your link building campaigns.

  11. Excelente article. I´m using these tips to improve my LB in SEO challenge that it´s happening here in Brasil.

  12. Rex says:

    I was searching for information if featured links from general directories are considered link buying and google brought me here :)

    Very interesting topic, Dave, thanks! I would also like to suggest another method, that is offsetting competitors’ backlinks. What are your thoughts about it?

    • Dave Cain says:

      Hi Rex,

      Thanks for the comments – with reference to ‘offsetting competitors backlinks’, if you’re simply referring to copying the backlink profile of a competitor, this is something I wouldn’t advise. Whilst on-page is important, building unique backlinks is crucial and Google can see where these links are coming from, so why would they rank one site above the other for simply copying links? What does that say about the site that has copied? The big thing for me is user focused and uniqueness – this wins every time.

      Thanks,
      Dave.

  13. Anon says:

    Great guide especially for beginners… it’s like a one-stop-shop for Link Building.

    I especially like Twitter and Social Bookmarking sites.

    Thanks for this!

  14. George Miller says:

    No doubt, social networks is at the top. After all, we all are social animals. Yes, it will take some time to build trust, therefore not liked or done wrongly by people who want to see immediate results.

    Thanks Dave, for this awesome post.

  15. David says:

    I agree with you almost across the board. The one area that I disagree with is link baiting. I think you were right to say that the effort required to create content that will draw links drags down the score, but I think that the “penalty” has pushed the score down too far. With the exception of guest blogging, there is no single SEO method that has the potential to get links from highly respected authoritative sites.

    • Dave Cain says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the comments. Link bait can be a great method, but like you and I have said, it can take time, but, it can work really well.

      Guest blogging is a great method and to gain links from ‘highly respected authoritative sites’ isn’t the be all and end all! Google likes a diverse range of backlinks – IP address, PageRank, content on the page, the subject, the domain extension – there are some many things that Google considers around back links and back link profiles. My biggest piece of advice would be to make your link building efforts look natural and you follow white hat techniques.

      Thanks,
      Dave.

  16. [...]  (Music Marketing Manifesto) A Musician’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (DiscMakers) Link Building Guide: 26 methods to help boost your search engine rankings in 2012 (Dave Cain) SEO, Why You Are Doing it Wrong (Search Engine Watch) The Power of Keywords (SEO Book) [...]

  17. Tim Silver says:

    I’ve been away from any form of SEO for about 7 years!

    I knew that the robot algorithms no longer placed much weight on keywords, but I’m slowly discovering just how much things have changed! Consequently, I have found this article to be most informative and helpful.

    I’m glad I stumbled upon it – thank you!

  18. Robin Scott says:

    Hi,

    Some excellent points raised here. This post is itself a potential link bait ;) – certainly I will put a link to it into the SEO guide we give to our clients.

    You’re right to forget about article directories and PR (press releases) as an SEO tool. Our business runs a press release website, and its for (shock) press releases, not articles stuffed full of backlinks about some “revolutionizing the world of … ” website! i.e. it is for information intended for journalists / bloggers and delivering investor relations information.

    Spread the word, don’t hunt links.

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