How to Build the Best Natural Links – Revealed by 6 SEO Experts

December 16, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park  

link-puzzleRunning out of ideas to build new links to your website? A couple days ago I released an article revealing the secret to making every link count for SEO. First and foremost, you need to focus on being natural without making it obvious to Google that you’re building links. What would your link profile look like if you did absolutely no promotion and all of your links were organic? This is what you should strive for.

After the original article went popular on Sphinn, I asked a few link building experts in the industry to share their thoughts and tactics. What are some of the biggest considerations when building links for better rankings? What are some of the most effective tactics that are “Google-proof”?

Here’s what they came up with. There are a lot of golden nuggets in there so make sure you read through them all.

Maurizio Petrone – Link building expert
maurizioGenerally speaking, it’s ok to have “don’t be too fast” as a rule of thumb. You pointed it out right that excessive speed can be an alarm in Google’s eyes. But think about viral marketing, huge brand advertising campaigns, and big news. In these cases, it’s normal to acquire links very fast (and also to slow down after a while). It doesn’t hurt, it helps!

The main point here is: Google has a lot of data. Search data, for that matter. It could be strange if I see a site going from 100 to 10,000 links without noticing a similar searching pattern for the site, but it could make perfect sense if it correlates with press coverage, social buzz, and searches. You get the point? There are exceptions 😉

I’ll go with some random bits of link building ideas here. I’ll try to avoid the basics already explained in Wiep’s link value factors guide.

  1. Pay attention to where links are placed on the page. Are they going to be in-content links or sidebar links? Invisible, ugly footer links? Link placement is extremely important. Jordan Kasteler has a great article about link placement as the most overlooked SEO metric. Read it!
  2. Traffic is key! Build links that provide significant referrals and you’ve done half the work. After all, it’s all about visibility, isn’t it?
  3. Site-wide links can help, but they tend to be considered boilerplate, which will reduce their value. Consider targeting a very specific page on the site you are building links on and go for it – within the actual content, if possible. If an image must be used as the link, remember that ALT attributes act like anchor text.
  4. Buying links doesn’t mean you have to pay cash. You can build links in many ways including sponsorships, contributions, translations, donations, affiliations, and press.
  5. Always include a link to your own site in the copy of your top contents. You have no idea how many people will copy & paste it. This is especially true with scraper sites using your RSS feed to steal your content.
  6. Be careful with theme distribution, widget-bait, quizzes, and any other form of linkbait that is not generated by pure content (text, image, video or other media). It can really hurt you (like it did to Matthew Inman).
  7. Encourage linking! Provide visible permalinks and add a call-to-action to get people to link. Ready-made snippets with linking HTML don’t perform impressively well in most cases. It’s better to leave the user in control of linking to increase variety.
  8. If you want to exchange links, carefully select your partners. Would you link to the site anyway even if there was no link back? Would you link to the site in the same way if it wasn’t reciprocal? Aim to exchange links only with sites where you can answer “yes” to those questions.
  9. Analyze your competition. Determine where they are getting most of their link popularity from and emulate them if you can. Add links on top of that to get ahead.
  10. Build valuable relationships with your customers, your readers, and your online buddies. Provide value to them on a regular basis and they’ll often be more than happy to thank you with a link.
  11. BONUS: Think laterally. Don’t just stick to the same “submit to directories and exchange links” mentality. Utilize your potential. Have images? You can use them for link building. Have videos? Make them embeddable and add your link to the embed code. Have serious skills in your niche? Go help out in the forums and give out links to your solutions to users’ problems.

Peter Newsome – Sitemost SEO
peter newsomeA couple of things that are also useful to point-out is that even thought the Google Toolbar PageRank isn’t the most accurate nor reliable indicator to go by, it still helps to gauge the relative value of a site. It’s important to be aware that (in simple terms) the link juice a page can share is determined by the overall PageRank of that page divided by the number of outbound links the page has. So technically a link from a relevant PR2 website with 3 outbound links can be more beneficial than a link from a PR5 website with 100 outbound links.

It’s also important to try and attain links that are geographically similar to your own site. I’m from Australia, so it would be natural for my site to attract more links from other Australian sites and those links would then help raise my profile within Google.com.au. If the only links I had were from US sites, it would look a little suspicious and wouldn’t help my local rankings.

Techniques to help raise your local profile:

  • Search for local business portals and directories (the smaller portals often don’t provide huge value, but there are still some decent ones out there)
  • Offer to sponsor local sporting clubs or associations (in exchange for a ‘sponsored’ link from their site)
  • The same applies to donating to local charities or non-profit organizations (which not only makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but also provides a tax write-off and links to generous contributors)
  • See if the local schools or churches have websites and if so, offer to do some volunteer work in exchange for a favorable mention on one of their pages
  • Join the local chamber of commerce or other business networking groups since it’s not uncommon for members to gain a mention on the organizer’s website
  • Prepare a couple of editorial pieces for local news publications. Some of these publications will feature your piece on their website as well as in the print media

These techniques are great because they work two-fold. While you’re gaining links from the above sources (and most likely attracting additional links from local bloggers and webmasters who admire the work you’re doing) your offline sales should also improve purely because of your new found status within the broader community.

Wiep Knol – Link building blog
wiep knolOne thing that I’d add is that it pays off to follow your competition closely from time to time. Not only to identify new link targets, but also to determine what’s “normal” in your industry as well. A link profile that looks really artificial in one niche can look pretty natural in another.

Depending on the niche you’re in, I’d also say that diversifying your link profile even more won’t harm you. For example, add some links with your URL as anchor text, some image links, nofollowed links, pdf links or other language links. Diversifying anchor text or page type/topic is one thing, but there’s even more you can do and (depending on your industry) sometimes have to do.

Lastly, cleaning up your past can be wise as well. For example, Google can still see if you (or a previous site owner or SEO agency) have been blatantly buying links in the past, or if you’ve used any other illegal techniques. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing (we’ve all been bad at least once), but cleaning up before you start building new links is probably the best thing to do in such situations.

David Harry – HuoMah SEO
david harry seo santaI suppose if I were to throw a tip into the ring it would be relating to social spamming…

Many folks these days believe that social media is a great link building tactic. While utilizing social media marketing for SEO benefit can be done, social spamming IS NOT a link building technique – not in the least. You see, it is the secondary links one gets from a viral submission that are the target – not the links from the social sites themselves (often nofollowed anyway). It is about the 4 bloggers and 3 resource websites that notice your content on Digg and then link to it themselves – the secondary links.

The same can be said for blog comment spammers. It isn’t about some pathetic text-targeting comment link. It’s about forming relationships with bloggers in your market in hopes of someday having them (of their own free will) one day link to your content. These will usually be the best kind of links.. organic and editorial (in the content, not the comments). As search engines get better at page segmentation and bloggers get wise, the value of the comment will outweigh the value of the link.

Social spamming is NOT a valid link building technique. Building relationships and developing content reach IS.

Todd Mintz – Portland SEO expert
todd mintzBeing an active, relevant blog commenter (especially on do-follow blogs) is one technique I would recommend. If I write a long comment and I am allowed to hyperlink within the comment, I might offer one instance of hyperlinking keyword-rich anchor text within the body of the comment so long as it feels natural and not spammy. But I never sign a blog post with anything other than my name. To use your targeted keywords as your name in a blog comment is not only poor marketing but likely a spam signal as well.

André Scholten
andre scholtenI have some ideas for link building tactics that work.

  • Forums. Be active on relevant and some lesser relevant forums and create value by putting great posts on them. After a while (some weeks) return to the forum and edit the messages and put a link in them. But beware, in most cases if the forum admin sees it you’re screwed.
  • Create top lists. People love to have their site listed in some sort of “top 50” list. I once took an existing list and added some extra parameters in it. That gave a total different ranking, and I blogged about that. I think this post was written in under 30 minutes, but it gave me lots of links. (Gyutae: Hey, this is exactly what I’m doing with my Internet marketing list of top blogs!)
  • Program tools. Learn from some existing little scripts or tools and create your own version of it. When it does add value for people it will grow links over time.
  • Organize a blog festival. Ask 10 bloggers if they want to create a new piece of content that will be shared on your site. The other bloggers have to blog a brief description with a link to the full articles. This will give the bloggers a good feeling because their writing is available on another site, and you end up with at least 10 new incoming links. We in Holland call it the Online Marketing Blog Kermis (fairground).

A big thanks to everyone who participated – a lot of great valuable information shared in this post. I also want to thank a few other people who shared their insights with me on this issue. Jordan Kasteler of Utah SEO Pro, Martin Bowling, David Wallace of Search Rank, Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide, Peter van der Graaf, and Tadeusz Szewczyk of SEO 2.0

What are your key discoveries from this post? How can you build more natural links to your site to improve your rankings? Be sure to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Comments

64 Responses to “How to Build the Best Natural Links – Revealed by 6 SEO Experts”

Rich Hill on December 16th, 2008

Should have sold this post as a $47 eBook. Great information!

Now I have to spend some time absorbing it all. Bookmarked for sure.

Thank you.
Rich Hill

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Thanks Rich. You’re right, I could have sold this post as a $47 ebook but I’d rather give it away for free to help everyone and build the blog. I’m glad you found it resourceful.

 
ZK@Internet Marketing Blog on December 17th, 2008

Or sold it maybe at $67 or $97

 
 
Blog Expert on December 16th, 2008

That is one of the best articles I have read for Building natural links. Definitely is going to be bookmarked.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Thanks Franklin. Also, check out Sugarrae’s article on link development with the experts. http://www.sugarrae.com/11-experts-on-link-development-speak/

 
 
Problogineer on December 16th, 2008

wow, some cool tips there.. was never aware of them.
I will follow them and lets see if I am able to gain SERP

Thanks for the efforts.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Yep, I think the most important thing to do is to have a plan of some sort. Don’t just go out and do everything possible at once. You want to keep things natural by spreading out your efforts and being somewhat conservative.

 
 
gamer on December 16th, 2008

Wow, great tips in here……many of them you won’t find in a link building 101 article….so they’re authentic. Thanks for the scoop.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Well yeah of course. They’re experts so they have a lot more to offer than just the basics. You can get that information anywhere else. The scary thing is that these guys didn’t even give away their best stuff. They keep most of that for themselves and their clients.

 
 
B. Durant on December 17th, 2008

Tip 6 from Maurizio Petrone caught my attention. I hadn’t heard of this until now. Read the article he linked to and was pretty surprised at how tenacious google is in going after a site that isn’t playing by the rules.

Also glad to see David Harry say that social media and blog comment spamming really aren’t link building. But then I guess it’s the old quantity vs quality fight that’s been raging forever. Don’t get me wrong, I comment on blogs, as you might have noticed, but I don’t expect much out of the comments aside from perhaps building a relationship with the blogger.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Widgets with links can be very dangerous if you’re not careful. The most important lesson is to keep it relevant – especially with your link anchor text. If you’re too aggressive, Google will definitely slap you, maybe for good.

As for blog commenting, I totally agree with you. Google can pretty easily detect blog comments (even on do-follow blogs) and discount those links. As you mentioned, the most important thing is to use blog comments as a way to connect with people in your industry.

 
 
Matt Helphrey on December 17th, 2008

Wow! Now thats what I call killer content. Thats basically all you need to know about link building. I have bookmarked this for future reference.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Haha, thanks Matt. I’m glad you like the content. I wouldn’t say that it’s ALL you need to know about link building but it’s definitely a good start to improving your link profile and moving up in the rankings.

 
 
krishna on December 17th, 2008

Really some good tips shared here from 6 experts. Tweeted this one 🙂

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Thanks for the tweet! What’s your Twitter name?

 
 
Nicole Price on December 17th, 2008

Thank you for a very illuminating post.

 
Marjory on December 17th, 2008

This is a great post. Thanks guys.

 
Ryan @ Linkbuildr on December 17th, 2008

Very awesome stuff and I always love getting an array of ideas and opinions from people in my field. I look up to a few of these guys so it helps me mold me business practice in the right way. Cheers!

 
designed2perform on December 17th, 2008

Totally agree with Wiep Knol about cleaning up previous seo work. Can be costly in the future.

 
ZK@Internet Marketing Blog on December 17th, 2008

Hey GP ,

I was expecting you in the list ..great SEO stuff

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Thanks, but I leave it to the link building experts to do all the talking in this one. 😛

 
 
Arnie K on December 17th, 2008

Maybe I missed it in this post, but linking within your own content on your site is a very effective, often overlooked strategy. Of course, don’t over do it and use the appropriate anchor text.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Yep, I totally agree with you on this one and it’s something that I frequently do here on my blog. Google gives preference to in-content links so you should always look for new link opportunities within your own content. Not only that, but you should also looks for in-content links on other sites as well – these are the most valuable in terms of SEO weight.

 
 
Nette on December 18th, 2008

One of the secrets of successful SEO is to be affiliated with popular and good sites.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

It’s true. Google looks at your link network – the sites that link to you and the sites you link out to. It’s what they use to determine the relevancy and importance of a page on the web.

 
 
Dennis Edell on December 18th, 2008

Excellent article. Although I have never heard of any of them (not surprising), I will take the advice on your recommendation. 🙂

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Hey Dennis,
You may not have heard of them but I can assure you that these guys definitely know what they’re talking about. They’re some of the top players in SEO and link building especially. It’s definitely advice that we should all be listening to.

 
 
Home Based Business on December 18th, 2008

There are some very great tips here man! Thanks for this. I was unaware that site-wide links could decrease the value. You learn something everyday!

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

I wouldn’t say that site-wide links decrease value. They’re just not weighted as much by Google compared to links inside actual content. Anyway, I’m glad you learned something from this article.

 
 
MattA on December 19th, 2008

Interesting read for sure. One guy, the Santa look-alike, is giving blog commenting thumbs down and the next guy is giving it thumbs up.

Hmm who to like? Well I have always had a thing against people who use ALL CAPS to tell everyone how it IS or IS NOT. Or could it be that I like the other guy just because I too think blog comment spamming works?

Cheers from Matt

Gyutae Park on December 19th, 2008

Hey Matt,
Todd and David are actually giving similar advice – just worded differently. Both agree that you shouldn’t spam comments by using keywords in the name field. You should use your own name and inject useful feedback in hopes of getting the blogger’s attention and building a relationship. The links will come after that in various ways. The actual links on comments aren’t weighted much anyway.

 
 
Martin Hegelund on December 19th, 2008

Great. I haven’t thought of the backside of theme and widget distribution. Thanks. 🙂

 
Ben Pei on December 20th, 2008

Wow Gyutae this is totally awesome. How did you manage to do this man

 
Cheap Mobile Calls on December 22nd, 2008

Printed for future reference. Many thanks for probably the most helpful post ever!

 
Mike Huang on December 22nd, 2008

Building links is highly beneficial, but if you do it wrong, Google will slap you silly.

 
Associate Money on December 25th, 2008

This post offers one of the most comprehensive linking techniques I have seen on the blogosphere.

There are just too much junk around these days and valuable, actionable information are not forthcoming.

Barry

 
BestCasinoAddict on December 31st, 2008

Great information.

I would like to highly the power of link baiting.

A good link bait can produce links for years to come.

 
Passive Income Ideas on January 2nd, 2009

GP,
Excellent, exceptional post that I learned a lot about natural link building from the experts. I have done a few natural link exchanges with some bloggers putting contextual links within our chosen posts, so this post is very insightful.

Peter Lee

 
suganindia on January 20th, 2009

Mr.Andre scholten has wasted my time suggesting on forum posts

 
Stop Dog Digging on February 7th, 2009

What an excellent post! One of the most interesting points to learn is that a page with a rank of 5 will give less “link juice” if it has more outbound links than a page with a rank 2. I’ve never checked on the number of outbound links before; I guess it’s time to start.

 
Web Design Company on April 6th, 2009

thanks for very good information but lot of material on this site is on other sites too i mean these are old fashioned ways now can you tell of any new ways of building links.

 

wow great tips, thanks for the tips

 
Exotic Cars on April 25th, 2009

Thanks Gyutae for bringing such good experts at one place.It really gave good guidelines.I am really inspired by Mr.Maurizio Petrone ,his opinion on getting Side wide link has helped me solving the problem weather to get side wide link or not.Getting it is not favourable.
I too agree with Mr.Todd Mintz that using keyword as your name while commenting is not good but my question is if the comment is not spam & the comment is on the topic of the article in the blog then too its considered as spam.

 
tukang nggame on May 3rd, 2009

I have made the tips above and the result is quite satisfactory for a beginner like me. once again thank you for the informative article

 
Trump Network Marketing on May 19th, 2009

Great post. It’s awesome how all the experts masterminded on this subject to bring a succinct solution to some of the questions people have on linking. Thanks for sharing! It was like being a fly on the wall when it comes to figuring out how to maximize the link juice a site can get… not going too fast, but leveraging our time too. I really liked Maurizio Petrone’s advice! It was nicely laid out. Thanks again!

 
 Website Design on June 1st, 2009

Some tips for linkbuilding as dollows
Check out backlinks to your competitors website, make a list of these links and by the time you have researched a number of sites you should start to see a pattern emerging.
When negotiating links, think very carefully as to the angle you will approach the webmaster with. OK, that link may benefit you, but what does he/she get in return ?
What methods will you employ to make sure the links remain on your chosen site ?
Determine if the site is a good linking partner. What’s the nature of the site? What impact will it have on your site if you link to it ? Who owns the site ?

 
Ned from Baltimore on June 7th, 2009

Great follow up to your making every link count post. I am a little disappointed that Peter van der Graaf who commented on that one wasn’t included and hasn’t commented here.

Both articles (or comments) mentioned no follow is part of natural linking. We are so often taught that no follow has no value but it does because it presents Google with a natural linking pattern.
Ned Carey

 
Dalam Hensi on June 16th, 2009

Great article.Thanks for sharing the info!

 
Internet Marketing Gem on June 20th, 2009

Thank you for this interesting and informative article. Some tips are very useful to me.

 
Davis on July 10th, 2009

I do really agree with Wiep Knol, “cleaning up your past can be wise as well”, our history might be taking as a consideration when Google ranks our site. Be sure that you try not to do any illegal action such as buy links or sell links, it may hurt your site in long term.

Gyutae, good sharing on the good piece of opinion from these link building experts.

 
mytheory on October 12th, 2009

by reading this article with some point of view from some great link building experts, i’ve just known that there are many theory about building links, such as link placement, and also geographic factors.
This is very helpful for me.

 
Chris Peterson on December 25th, 2009

Great tips for making link building. I agree all steps that you have written. Out of 11, I liked 9 steps.

When I analyze internal and external link, I always analyze competitor external link, I mean what is his link structure, where he has given link and how his write.

 
Shubham on February 9th, 2010

some really awesome tips..! Thanks for the work..! Really appreciate it.! Well SEO isn’t an easy thing..! Lol.z.!

 
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