6 experts talk linkbuilding

What is a good linkbuilding strategy and which tactics should I be using?

Yes, I know. That’s quite an expansive question, but the aim of this post is to provide an overview strategy as well as some tactics that the experts are using so that we can zero in on some more basic linkbuilding concepts. There is a great deal of advanced, higher-level linkbuilding content out there but not so much back to basics stuff which can be useful for the newbie and veteran alike.

Some of the best in the business have contributed to this post and I thank them for the time they put in to providing a response. I hope you all enjoy the insights – please add any of your own thoughts on linkbuilding strategies and tactics in the comments below:

With responses from Kelvin Newman, Gareth Hoyle, Gab Goldenberg, Michael King (AKA iPullRank), Paddy Moogan and Peter Attia.

“First of all you need to work out what type of links you need. Certain tactics are good at building certain types of links, i.e. if you’ve got an authority issue, all the syndicated articles in the world isn’t going to help you rank. Most of the link analysis tools will give you a number of metrics, look how you compare to your biggest competitors. The areas where you’re deficient will be where you need to concentrate.

I personally concentrate on four areas, volume, authority, velocity and anchor text. If I have a less authoritative site than my competitors I’ve got to concentrate on a small number of really trusted links. I’d then look at who the most trusted websites linking to my competitors and see if I can convince them to link to me, if they won’t I try and understand what types of websites they are and try and find similar sites.

Often I find sites have enough trusted links and it’s velocity they need, so then I’d be looking at links I can acquire quickly build etc. I think too many people forget in link building, what they need to do is beat their competitors not Google.”

Kelvin Newman, Creative Director at SiteVisibility and author of Clockwork Pirate

In my opinion, a good link building strategy is one where a diverse mix of links are gained over a constant period of time.

Many people continue to rubbish directory submissions and social bookmarks – yet when used correctly, these can be powerful link building products. I am not saying you would strategise based around just using these 2 products, but they do play a part in the overall link building mix.Think about it – If you had 10 incoming links – all from BBC, Guardian etc – that doesn’t look natural and wouldn’t happen in reality. If you had 1000 incoming links and x% were from article marketing, x% were from social sites, x% from blog comments, the profile starts to look a lot more natural in the eyes of the search engines – It also helps you to hide your juicy links from competitors doing quick backlink analysis on your site!!

>We are still having great success for both clients and our own sites with our mixed packages which give the target URL a good variety of links.

I am not personally convinced that Google is as clever as they make out to be – I took an affiliate site from nowhere to top 3 using only “spammy” high PR blog comments and directory submissions! It has held its top 3 slot for over 6 months now – beaten Panda updates and the recent freshness update.

Remember – if certain links were really that bad – I would be dropping 100’s of them on my rivals to get them penalised!!

Have a look at the backlink profile for www.manuallinkbuilding.co.uk – We practice what we preach! Yes we have a few juicy links from SEO conferences we sponsor etc but the majority of what we use is what we sell!

Gareth Hoyle, Managing Director of linkbuilding agency Manual Link Building

A good strategy is to find out what links are relevant to your niche in particular. If your local competitors don’t have good links, look at competitors in harder but related markets (e.g. Cleveland vs NYC).

The best tactic I know of is to make friends with people who aren’t hotshots and to build each other up and climb the ladder of success together. “A list” folks are too busy to answer their own email, but friends on the “B list” have time to answer and do favours – and of course you should reciprocate. Give and you shall receive.

Personally, I was blogging on SEO for a few years with only modest success. When I started blogging about others and sharing how smart and worth paying attention to they were, they reciprocated and I saw a jump in how well i was doing.. I talked about people like Tamar of Techipedia.com and the Winfields of BlueGlass (then 10e20) (today some of the big stars in social media and SEO, but then they were relatively less known). Folks like AnnSmarty of MyBlogGuest have been phenomenal to me.”

Gab Goldenberg, SEO Consultant, founder of SEO ROI and author of the Advanced SEO Book

I personally take a 3-tier approach to link building strategy. Your highest most scalable tier is in content creation; you have to make something awesome that will organically attract links otherwise you’re just a spammer. The 2nd tier is of course outreach because the internet is so saturated it’s very rarely an “if you build it they will come” situation. Thirdly is the manual submission stuff, blog commenting, social bookmarking etc. I personally don’t do much of that as it is not as valuable from a link building standpoint although it can still be valuable from a content discovery standpoint.

As far as tactics I think it is generally more effective to do link building in the social space rather than via email as social media inherently allow for people to connect to each other via conversation. So the methods that SEER interactive has been employing to do link prospecting using Open Site Explorer and Twitter and very key. I also believe using personas with your prospecting is also very important in order to quickly identify and segment users to use more tailored form letters if you’re going to use form letters at all. To that point I don’t think form letters are the way to go for link building at all because people are sharing so much information about themselves in social media and you can easily find out what topics they are into to create more contextual conversation and improve link building hit rates substantially. The key takeaway from my strategy would be to make it more about actual people rather than about numbers and you will hit better numbers reaching out to less people.

Michael King (iPullRank), SEO Manager at Publicis Modem and SEOmoz associate

I’d tend to say that a good link building strategy will always be customised to the client in question.  This could mean you need to do directory links, it could mean articles or even paid links – not that I recommend that but its the reality of the current state of the industry.

Personally, I’m trying to push clients to invest more in content based link building.  This means getting them to invest time and resources into creating link worthy content – this is hard particularly in very corporate companies!  But I still push hard for this approach because it can not only get volume of links (if done right) but the high quality that is needed too.

This is an example of one we did recently for a client which was very, very hard work but has paid off massively – http://www.thomson.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/infographic/interactive-music-map/index.html

So I think that companies should be investing in staff who can do this type of stuff or hiring agencies who can. Long term, they should certainly have in-house content writers who genuinely care about the brand and the produces they sell. This comes across in the content and helps massively.

Paddy Moogan, SEO Consultant at Distilled – Paddy also blogs at PaddyMoogan.com

I think people should do a little bit of everything, instead of focusing on one strategy. There are lots of different methods that are great if executed properly. One of my favorites is creating personalized pages for colleges and making them genuinely beneficial to their staff or students. Colleges are usually pretty open to putting up pages if they’re truly beneficial.

However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore the basics. For example, guest posting is a great way to get a nice editorial piece not only on another blog, but infront of another community. Infographics can be tricky to pull off sometimes, but have the potential to bring in tons of backlinks.

There is no one magic linkbuilding strategy. There are several beneficial link building strategies and all of them should get some attention.

Peter Attia, SEO Associate at uShip. Take a look at Peter’s posts on linkbuilding over at SEOmoz


  1. avatar
    Anthony Trollope November 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Fantastic insights and a great summary of a diverse range of tips!

    I think this piece is especially good because it discusses lots of different tactics and conveys I believe, a really important point about this being a case of ‘different strokes for different folks’.

    What resonates with me is; first assess what type of links your project needs before you start running around headless. Just as you would plan the execution of any other project, link building (when done properly) requires this approach each and every time.


  2. avatar
    MJ Meyer November 23, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    What an awesome read! Some great insights and opinions. Shared!

    • avatar
      James Agate November 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Very kind of you, glad you enjoyed the piece

  3. avatar
    Angela November 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    I subscribe to several newsletters and often skip over many because of time constraints but yours is consistently one I take the time to read because of the value-add. This one is was no exception. As you mentioned, there are several myths around linkbuilding and it was good to have several expert opinions available in one good, concise read.
    Thanks James
    I’m a fan.
    Angela, WSI

    • avatar
      James Agate November 25, 2011 at 11:30 am #

      Thanks very much Angela – I really appreciate that, good to know the work I put into the newsletter and the blog doesn’t go un-noticed.

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