The Secret to Making Every Link Count For Your SEO Rankings

December 14, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park  

Link building is an ongoing struggle between two sides with different motivations. Webmasters obviously want to increase traffic and rank #1 in the search engines for their targeted keywords. Search engines on the other hand aim to neutralize webmasters’ link building efforts and return the most relevant search results pages. So as a link builder, how can you win the battle?

With Google’s emphasis on links in its ranking algorithm, links have essentially become the currency of the net. People are willing to shell out thousands of dollars for links in hopes of better rankings and higher traffic. However, Google is fighting back by weeding out “artificial” links and devaluing sites that engage in aggressive link building tactics.

Every webmaster needs to proceed with caution when attaining links. There’s always a right way to do it and a wrong way. The key is to stay under the radar and strive to appear “natural”.

How can you do this? In this article I discuss the best ways to build links naturally to prevent tripping any filters or raising any red flags.Β  Sure you might be able to fool the algorithm but the true test is having your links pass a human review. That should be your goal with every link you place on the web.

1. Provide value, attract links organically
The foundation of every link building campaign is your content. Are your pages worthy of being linked to? Provide value and you’ll naturally attain links from people who will voluntarily share your content with others. This is becoming increasingly important because Google is looking to eliminate thin pages from its index. The more value you provide, the more links you’ll get. You can then be more aggressive with your link building campaigns because it’s unlikely that a human reviewer will be able to tell the difference between “real” links and “manipulated” links.

2. Vary the link anchor text
Link anchor text is extremely important for SEO and could mean the difference between ranking for a keyword and being nowhere to be found. However, there is such a thing as over-optimization and it’s better to vary the link anchor text to appear more natural. For example, if your main keyword is “apple cider”, mix up your links with keywords like “buy apple cider here”, “click here”, “apple juice”, “apples”, “the best apple cider”, etc. The probability of all of your links being exactly the same is low, so don’t give the search engines reason to be suspicious so easily.

3. Deep link to pages on your site
Again, every link building campaign should aim to mimic natural linking patterns. Most people link to deep pages on a site, not just the homepage so you should be doing the same thing. Attain links to a diverse set of pages on your site. If you have a sound internal linking structure, your entire site should benefit.

4. Get links from relevant sites
Would a site about guitar lessons link to a real estate site? Most likely not. When analyzing the link graph, search engines give more weight to links that come from the same topical neighborhood. In the guitar lessons example, a link from a music site is much more valuable than a link from an unrelated site. Keep this in mind and target links from sites that have some sort of connection to yours. It’s what search engines love.

5. Take your time – slowly build up your link profile
It’s tempting to do a rush of promotion to get as many links as possible in a short period of time. However, this will usually raise red flags to the search engines, which will then devalue many of your hard earned links. It’s better to slowly build up your link profile over the long haul. Rather than attaining 3,000 links in a day, aim for 10 high quality links per week for a year. The long term benefits will be much greater.

6. Look for similar PageRank neighborhoods
Would you be suspicious if a new site with PageRank 1 suddenly had links from PageRank 8 sites? I don’t know about you, but Google would be. Generally speaking, most sites have links from sites with similar PageRank. For example, a PageRank 4 site will likely have links from sites with PageRank 3-5. Aim for the same and reach higher as you grow bigger.

7. Minimize links from the same IP address
Thinking about interlinking all of your sites together to maximize SEO potential? Think again. Google can easily detect links that come from the same C-block of IP addresses and will discount these links accordingly. It’s probably not a good idea to interlink your sites if they’re hosted on the same server. Then again, you shouldn’t be linking unless your sites are related in some way anyway.

8. Diversify your link profile
There’s a variety of sources for links and you should tap into all of them in your link building efforts. Get links from directories, blogs, press releases, scraper sites, old resource sites, forums, news sites, etc. The more diverse your link profile, the better because everything will look a lot more natural. You can then be more aggressive in your tactics because you’ll have a solid foundation already set.

9. Buy links discretely
Buying links is a very controversial topic because Google looks very negatively at any sort of paid link. However, if done right, paid links can have a huge positive effect on your rankings and traffic. First of all, it’s important to take into account each of the points listed in this article. Always go for related sites and vary your landing pages and anchor text. Spread out your purchases and contact webmasters directly instead of going through link brokers and networks like Text Link Ads. If you do it discretely, it will be almost impossible for Google to detect what’s paid and what’s not. As for valuing links, read Aaron Wall‘s article on how much a link is worth to your business.

10. Eliminate obvious footprints
If you plan on using more aggressive strategies for your link building campaigns, it’s extremely important to hide your tracks and eliminate any obvious footprints. Do everything in moderation and mix things up to prevent the search engines from detecting any patterns. For example, if you plan on passing link value through your affiliate program, don’t use obvious parameter names like “aff”. For more information, read Patrick Altoft’s article on how to make sure your affiliate program passes SEO benefits.

Bonus: Be careful when buying domains for SEO
If done right, buying up sites have tremendous SEO potential. You can buy a trusted domain and redirect to your own to benefit from all of the inbound links. You can utilize content to piggyback off of your existing site. You can even buy a site to instantaneously achieve a #1 position in Google. If you have the money, buying sites might be a great investment. However, it’s still important to stay under the radar and not make it obvious to Google what you’re doing. For example, don’t redirect to a random irrelevant site and don’t quickly change the WHOIS information. These kinds of things tell Google that ownership has changed and they’ll often reset the site’s ranking potential. For more tips on buying up sites for SEO, see the recap of the Buying Sites for SEO session at SMX Advanced 2008.

How are you building links to your site? Are you thinking like Google and considering the implications of your actions? Every link counts and it’s important for you to stay under the radar and aim for a “natural” link profile. What are your experiences building links? Have you ever been penalized for being too aggressive and raising up red flags? Share your stories by leaving a comment below!

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100 Responses to “The Secret to Making Every Link Count For Your SEO Rankings”

SEO Stuart on December 14th, 2008

An absolutely fantastic article Gyutae πŸ˜€

I just popped my head in here to see if you’d done any new posts… and look what I find, you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one, it’s just what I’ve wanted to read about from an experienced pro writer like yourself for ages.

Think I asked you to write a post on this subject a while back. πŸ˜‰

I’ll be back tomorrow, with more time on my hands, to read this a few times and visit all the resources you have linked to.

Winning The Web is becoming a legendary resource of SEO and Internet Marketing information, thank’s so much dude. πŸ˜€

Gyutae Park on December 14th, 2008

Haha, thanks Stuart for the kind words. I think the article conveys the essence of effective link building: being natural and targeting real people.

SEO Stuart on January 2nd, 2009

It’s all real strong advice, very well written and a great resource, thank’s Gyutae.

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Blog Expert on December 14th, 2008

Awesome information man. Definitely some pointers in their for people just beginning to learn search engine optimization.

ZK@Internet Marketing Blog on December 14th, 2008

Pro SEO stuff from the master πŸ™‚

Frostfire Gifts on December 15th, 2008

wow, well done, a very useful article, i think i need to re read it!

Cheap Mobile Calls on December 15th, 2008

Thanks for the advice there. I’ve printed it to use as a reference! Many thanks!

Nicole Price on December 15th, 2008

Very useful tips. Thank you.

Yellow Search Engine Optimization on December 15th, 2008

Gyutae, Excellent article… Great advise on making every link count I would also keep in mind unique c-class ip ranges for these links.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

The C-class IP ranges tip was mainly for when you were linking together your own network of sites. It’s usually not an issue when you’re building links from external sources.

David Wallace on December 15th, 2008

Very good tips.

One thing that we are really pushing clients to do is to add a corporate blog to their site and begin cranking out quality content. It is a struggle with them for many reasons.

For those who do, we then add that feed to our RSS reader and when new posts hit, we submit them to the various social media sites (i.e. StumbleUpon, Mixx, Digg, etc.)

I would also add that finding blog posts that are relevant to one’s business model and then submitting ‘quality’ comments with link back to site is a good way to obtain links. Oh and don’t be afraid of a combination of ‘folwed’ and ‘nofollowed’ links in this manner. It looks more natural.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Thanks for the feedback, David. Obviously, it’s very difficult for big corporations to join the blogging bandwagon and be good at it. Usually it’s a matter of limited resources and nonexistant passion for the topic. As for social sites, do you do it for the links or are you hoping that the articles go popular?

I don’t think blog comment links are very valuable in themselves (for SEO), but I think it’s a great way to connect with people and develop relationships.

Anthony on January 2nd, 2009

David, I like your strategy of subscribing to your clients RSS to find their key articles. Sometimes the best ideas are right in front of us and we don’t realize it.

Happy New Year!

Andrew Shotland on December 15th, 2008

These are great general strategies. Re specifics, I would recommend making sure that your business contact data is up to date in all of the relevant business directories (particularly the local search/IYP sites) and make sure that you add your URL to any of these sites that allows you to do so.

Here is a list of some sites to check: listings-for-free/

Dennis Edell on December 15th, 2008

Awesome list. I’m as white hat as they come, and most of these are definitely doable. πŸ™‚

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Hey Dennis,
Believe it or not, these tips apply to all kinds of link building – from white hat to black hat. White hats are naturally natural and blackhats try to be natural to avoid getting hit by Google.

Susan/Unique Business Opportunity on December 15th, 2008

Just when I think I’m beginning to understand some of this stuff, I find out that I have just scratched the surface. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Home Based Business on December 15th, 2008

Great post man! I think I have a good mixture of links. I may be going too fast according to your post though. I am getting around 3-5 a day from different sources such as building profiles, forums, comments, articles, blog posts, etc….So I think I am pretty spread out but may be going too fast.

Thanks for the post once again and I will definitely use some of your ideas!

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

I think you’re fine with 3-5 per day, especially since most of your links are from user-generated content. Try to get more editorial links (in the actual content of pages) and you’ll do a lot better for yourself.

Saurav Verma on December 15th, 2008

Some very good points you have made here,a nice and concise link building mini-guide I would have to say.

Link building has been one of the most determining search engine ranking factor, though many factors have come and gone. 2009 holds in a lot for us as personalized/intent based search kicks in.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

I definitely agree with you. Links will be come less important in the future as search engines use more quality signals to determine rankings. Google has a TON of data from their various properties (Chrome, Analytics, Toolbar, etc) and I’m sure they will be using it in the algorithm in the near future.

George on December 15th, 2008

Really good points. I wouldn’t promote doing number 9, except in the case of buying directory links.

I have not found number 7 to be true, but I know some people believe it is. It’s possible I am mistaken.

Numbers 1-5 are golden!

Overall, very nice list…

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Hey George,
Thanks for the compliments. Many people have varying opinions on paid links, but in my opinion they can work if done right. Also remember that a paid link doesn’t have to be bought with cash. Some food for thought…

Peter van der Graaf on December 16th, 2008

Hello Gyutae,

A very complete rundown which misses almost noting!

Just a few things I’d like to add:

Get links from authorities
Links from old sites that have earned their trust increase Googles spam threshold. Normally getting 1000 links in 1 day is a bad thing. Whenever one of those links comes from CNN, it is instantly condoned. An easy way to find non topic specific authorities that transfer their authority domain-wide is by doing a search for “www” in google. Although w3c will show up, it is a very generic search.

Your tenth point is extremely important and there are many details to look at.
Whenever you manage a directory page and every site on that page seems to be linking to the same commercial site that is an obvious link trade!
Whenever you’ve ever been logged in to someones Google Analytics account and he’s been doing heavy spamming, all other sites you’ve been logged in will recieve further inspection. Any other proof of joint ownership could get other sites penalized as well (even if these don’t spam).

Point nine about buying links also applies to many forms of sponsorship. “Hosted by” footers and other site-wide links will give little value. Rather have that website create one specific page on the topic you want to rank for with a link to you. Have the site-wide link to his relevant page to get all the linkjuice transferred to you.

I’ve got many more tips, but you wanted to do an extra post later on with expert opinions. I’ll keep a few for that one.

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

Wow, excellent tips Peter! You mention getting links from authorities, which is definitely necessary to get ahead in the rankings. Any tips on how to get on there? Obviously getting a link from CNN is no easy task.

I also like your tip about creating a specific page on a topic rather than creating sitewide links directly. How much of a difference has this tactic made for you? Compared to other link building methods.

Peter van der Graaf on December 17th, 2008

Hello Gyutae, does has loopholes which I won’t expose here now, but a couple of less authoritive sites combined have the same effect. Common sense is a good indicator of probable authority. The best authoritive indicator is time. Old dates are the easiest way to look at that, but it comes down to the age of the bulk of their incoming links and lack of spammy tactics.

I had directory wide links on one domain and a specific page dedicated to my link on the other domain (with site wides pointing at it). Once Google introduced the detection of paid links, only the direct site wide was effected negatively in both ranking and pagerank (which is a bad indicator, but better than nothing).

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Singapore SEO Consultant on December 16th, 2008

Well written article on link building – a very clear & concise article.

Ann Arbor Web Design on December 16th, 2008

As you say the aim should be to “The key is to stay under the radar and strive to appear β€œnatural”.” That is of course a difficult balance to achieve and your post is a great compilation of tips to get to that balance. Will check out the links in your post as well; thanks!

kevin on December 16th, 2008

excellent article it really is but i do not agree with two points buying links, and buying domains. as this is artifical and will not have a long term benifit as Google gets smarter if you follow the rules the your results will be futureproof

Peter van der Graaf on December 16th, 2008

Buy the domain before it expires or gets a parked domain characteristic. There are many legal ways to join domains. For instance when two companies merge. Therefore you should emulate practices that Google will never punish.

Salwa on December 16th, 2008

Great article. Very useful tips for those just starting out in the search engine optimization.

Ben Pei on December 16th, 2008

Oh finally a new post.. Deep linking is important for on page but many neglect this part of SEO.

drives on December 16th, 2008

awesome info, thanks. so tough for a layman to keep up with the big G!

SEO India on December 17th, 2008

I also agree with you that we should control on our link building campaign, link building for any website should be start slowly slowly. We shouldn’t try to obtain too much links within a single day or a week, we should define our target for link building. Getting too much links quickly may be harmful for the site. Anyway you explain in very well way. Thanks a lot.

motocross SEO on December 17th, 2008

You wrote the “what” but not the “how”. I would be happy for some examples. Thanks anyway πŸ™‚

Gyutae Park on December 17th, 2008

This post lays the foundation for link building – what you should look out for before placing links on the web. As for the “how” maybe I’ll leave that for a future post, but the important thing is to go out there and experiment. You’ll learn a lot more doing that than just reading about it in a blog post.

ZK@Internet Marketing Blog on December 17th, 2008

great white hat list building …I am all for white hat strategies

Rick Freeman on December 18th, 2008

Great article Gyutae

Loved the bit about deep linking,
makes a lot of sense.


Luke on December 18th, 2008

Looks like some pretty important considerations here. Just generally don’t do anything scammy or at least don’t get caught. Google is pretty up on the grey-hat stuff. Best to provide value and make every attempt to be legit (and look legit while you’re at it).

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

You pretty much hit the nail on the head, Luke. First things first, it’s important to provide value to end users and be relevant to the audience you’re marketing to. Once you do that, you can more aggressively build links and hide your tracks since Google won’t know the difference.

Luke on December 20th, 2008

The whole idea of being aggressive at building link-backs makes me feel a little bad. But I can’t deny that it works. The content is the most important thing, but if nobody is linking to you it can be harder to get anyone to notice it. There has to be a balance between the two approaches I guess.

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bali villas on December 19th, 2008

impresive… very good post

Ned Carey on December 19th, 2008

I hadn’t thought of some of these.

I do try to use different anchor text when I comment but many blog hosts don’t like keywords in the Name field.

Mitch on December 19th, 2008

I guess I don’t understand the topic well enough to have to worry about this, maybe that’s a good thing. I know I have thousands of links to my site but I would never think of buying one or paying for one, will one or two good links make that much of a difference? maybe they would but those would more than likely be the ones way out of my price range. In any event, some real interesting stuff as this whole SEO thing is still very new to me and I still have a long way to go, I’m still trying to suck up all of the information I can on it and at least now I know a good place to look.

THanks πŸ™‚

wisdom on December 20th, 2008

That has to be no fun if Google resets your linking potential and knocks you down to the bottom.

Tom At The Home Business Archive on December 20th, 2008

Excellent article.Link building is one of my daily marketing tasks and deep linking has proven to be very useful, especially if you link to a related post.

Matt Helphrey on December 20th, 2008

Building links could very well be the one key ingredient to long term success in internet business. Thanks for sharing this very detailed info. Ill pass it along.

Ari on December 29th, 2008

Really great post.

It felt like I was reading an internal training doc when reading this. We go by every one of those principles. The idea about getting a combination of no-follow, follow, forum, directories, etc etc in order to be able to go after those higher powered anchor-text specific links is really great advice.

What do you think about Jim Boynkin completely stopping to buy links?

Will keep reading your posts, keep them up πŸ™‚

Matan Media Ltd.

Susan/Together We Flourish on January 2nd, 2009

All I can say is that I have much to learn. My head is spinning just a little from reading this. Thanks for offering the information

Passive Income Ideas on January 2nd, 2009


Another excellent post. While you want to diversify your link profile and get your links from many different methods, you many need to focus on a few that prove better than others, including natural link exchanges, one way linking, use of anchor text just to name a few.

Peter Lee

Chris on January 6th, 2009

I suppose one way to spread out the link building growth is to go for some slow release sources, whereby your link won’t go up until it has been reviewed as in the case of most web directories, article sites and press release websites – high value sources from these are unfortunately few and far between, but they at least mean that you can do a lot of the work at once, knowing that some links will go live in a day, some in a week, some in a couple of weeks etc etc.

Donna | Healthy Recipes on January 8th, 2009

Excellent article! Well researched and thorough.

I started a new blog only a few months ago and I’m already seeing the benefits of having great, original content and natural inbound links. After all the crap I’ve read, some of which I’ve tried to get “quick and easy” SEO benefits this just really proves that nothing beats the real thing. And doing it with integrity is so much more satisfying than trying to game the system.

Travel China Blog on January 8th, 2009

I have tried many different method for increasing the serp rank as well as traffic and finally realized link building is the most important method, thanks for the great tips.

Matt Wutzke on January 11th, 2009

Well written article on link building techniques.
I learned that the most important is we just do the link naturally.

UK Deals on January 12th, 2009

Point 3 is slightly contentious – I monitor my competitors links on a regular basis and I’ve seen some sites picking up thousands of links in a very short space of time. Perhaps Google et al are time taking their time before they slap them down!

I think the most important aspect to bear in mind is link buying. Google has pretty muched nailed the big linking networks but, with a little discretion, it’s still fairly easy to find reputable businesses that will build your links for you with being overt.

Sheryl Loch on January 15th, 2009

Hello Gyutae,
Thanks so much for helping me decide on a few things. I have been building links from a variety of sources with ‘mini post’ about individual articles. I was told that was not a good idea but, you confirmed my notion.

ps. I came over here from Peter Lee’s post where he had a link to you.

Lukas on January 21st, 2009

Some great advices, thank you

seo blogger on January 24th, 2009

i found this point more useful – “Look for similar PageRank neighborhoods” .i already have got link exchanges from 3 PR 3 blogs and seeing some google love.hope nothing blog has pr0 .

Budi Waluyo@surabaya property on February 5th, 2009

I love the substantial idea “being natural and targeting real people”. It means we have to make strong relationship amongst the internet society. Learn their thought and appreciate their work each other. No more beautiful in this world except friendship in harmony. High page rank of the website is just one of the valuable consequence. By the way, why does not my avatar appear here ?

Stop Dog Chewing on February 7th, 2009

I’ve just started my link building campaign, so this post is definitely going to help me. Mostly, I’ve been submitting my site to directories, posting on blogs, social bookmarking, etc.

Mike on February 9th, 2009

What should I write in the comment ? Thanks, because I am relatively new in the field of SEO, and some of these tactics I use for my clients. I had some doubts in my mind for certain things, your article cleared everything. I like this article very much and I am looking forward to see some more articles like this in near future.

Chaunna Brooke on February 19th, 2009

For most, link building is all about building the page ranking of one site. The prominence and the visibility of the website will start from there.

Sean Hecking on February 19th, 2009


Some excellent tips her for link building. One area of link building that can be a great win-win is sponsorships. If a company sponsors events, typically the non-profit or organization will link out to their list of sponsors. While this doesn’t build deep links or keyword rich links, it can really build authority to the site as a whole. When combined with regular linking efforts, sponsorships to non-profits, group events, etc can have a big impact and are technically not “paid links”.

Sam on February 22nd, 2009

Very helpful article, you’ve put everything so simply. It was a very informative read.

Pasadena Real Estate on March 11th, 2009

Great article! It was very helpful and gave me some important things to think about in my link building campaign.

hitesh sahni on March 17th, 2009

In all of your 10 points, you have written about what to do, but there is not a single line explaining how to do it. Your post is good for seo intermediates, but starters will find nothing.

However pont 2 is an exception. But how can I build my link profile? Look for similar pagerank neighbourhoods ? or minimize links from same ip address etc.

JT DeBolt on March 26th, 2009

Great information! Thanks for sharing some of the techniques that will create success in online marketing or any SEO endeavor.


wow likely I have found situs perfect for me bails science seo, thanks for the tips.

I’m still beginner and need to learn many of you about seo

caromarch on April 10th, 2009

I just linked to this post in my most recent blog post on inbound links. I agree that content is one of the major factors to gaining quality inbound links. Thanks for the great post!

SEO Dubai on May 5th, 2009

Quality link building can really help to rank well in search engines. Though it was a very informative post. Thanks

California ADT Home Security on May 6th, 2009

OK. Here is my question. I have just posted a deep link on this post. This page has a page rank of 3.

Will this post with my link, help increase the page that I am linking to?

Party Crasher on June 6th, 2009

No it won’t cuz its a NoFollow link. Only DoFollow links pass PR juice to the pages they link too. Come’on don’t expect an SEO expert to pass link juice to you for just leaving a comment :p

Great post btw, even though some are complaining about no info on how to do stuff, they should be glad they now at least know what to do. How to do it available on the internet if they just search for it πŸ™‚

Ned from Baltimore on June 7th, 2009

I am subscribed to comments and party crasher’s comment got me back here are re-reading the other comments. It’s a great article and I’m glad I cam back to re-read it.

One thing I picked up on re-reading the comments was Peter’s comment about if you have multiple sites in Google analytics, Google obviously knows those sites have common ownership and will value links between them less. That is a terrific insight. Similar to but more powerful than your point about Same c-block IP addresses

Nitin @ Website designer on July 14th, 2009

Nice thanks …. heard some where google dont account for alt tab without image indexing …. is it rightly heard my me ….

website design on July 25th, 2009

I have spent years doing lengthy SEO methods and link building has proved to be the most effective. Great Article.

Robert on December 10th, 2009

Link building is tricky, and it has to be slow since not all kinds of links will give you good results. This is a great article that speaks the truth about this complicated topic

Chris Peterson on January 7th, 2010

Great topics of making link building. Every step is really useful to remind before creating link structure.Minimize link from same IP Address is most important in order to avoid spam and ban from Google. If we will get numbers of link from same IP Address then no use.

harshal8feb on January 7th, 2010

Absolutely, i agree that slowly build up your link profile point. Now i realize slow link building gives better result then faster.

Sushie on March 13th, 2010

Great article once again.
I try to build backlinks about 5-10 per day, i hope it is enought correct?
I build them in all diversified PR from 1 to 8, my blog is new so i want to reach a good PR and don’t want to only build on PR1 sites, i don’t want to get a mini PR for all work i do…
Thanks for this article. πŸ™‚

Aileen on May 17th, 2010

thank you for this.. what a great help !

Terry on June 11th, 2010

It has been said that you only try to get link from site relevant to yours. But what if your competitor is building those non-relevant links for you. How would google identify them as it is done by your competitor and not you?

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