Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which would be an awkward and uncomfortable place from which to do search engine optimization work), you’re probably aware that the two most important things to know about link building in the post-Panda world are that 1) backlinks are still very important for ranking, and 2) traditional link-building methods (or at least many of them) are no longer effective. In its efforts to combat webspam, Google now ignores or even penalizes “unnatural” link profiles.
So what types of links should you avoid? What kinds of links are still (or now) the most valuable? How can you get more high-quality links? What tools are most helpful in link building efforts?
Find the answers to those questions and more here in almost two dozen of the best link-building guides and tool reviews of the past year.
Link Building Guides, Techniques and Tips
Six Degrees Of SEO Bacon & B2B Link Building Q&A by Search Engine Land
Debra Mastaler answers seminar questions posed to her and Scott Fasser of Optify on b2b link building tactics, such as “Q: Is submitting press releases as a method for link building efficient? A: Press releases, if submitted properly, are an effective way to build short term links and to syndicate news and content…Having a plan for syndicating on a regular basis – no less than monthly is the best strategy. Optimizing the release for the focus keywords and submitted with the right service is a good strategy – especially when combined with an on-going PR effort to build excitement for news and participate in reviews, stories and roundups.”
Link Building From Scratch by Search Engine Watch
Julie Joyce details 16 different kinds of links along with the pros and cons of pursuing each, ranging from the easy-to-get-but-not-worth-much (e.g., directory links) to the challenging-but-valuable (infographics and widget links).
Observing that “Despite what most SEOs will tell you, it’s not easy to create outstanding content that people will want to link to,” Jon Cooper provides “10 fantastic examples of link bait and what makes them so spectacular,” such as Thomson’s Evolution of Music, “a visualization of how music has traveled over the past 200 years…Why was it successful?…The two main reasons it was successful are the quality of the visualization and the social share buttons on the page. Making it easy to share gets the page in front of more eyes, and more eyes means more links.” Jon didn’t say these examples were easy, just extraordinary.
The End of Link Building as We’ve Known and Loved it by Search Engine Watch
Frequent best-of honoree Eric Enge notes that traditional link-building methods (even white-hat tactics) simply don’t work as well as they used to in the old world of search engine algorithms, and offers eight recommendations for tactics to create a valuable groundswell of spontaneous links, among them blogging, engaging in social media, writing news releases, advertising on targeted sites…in short, using a web presence optimization framework approach.
Noting that authoritative links still play a highly significant role in ranking, the brilliant Neil Patel supplies 10 rules for attracting such links, such as writing content that attracts editorial links; creating a desirable (and original) image library; writing columns or guest posts; and knowing what kinds of sites to avoid for link building.
13 Unconventional Link Building Strategies by Search Engine Journal
Need more than 10 rules? Here, Sujan Patel (Neil’s cousin) lists 13 more tips (with surprisingly little overlap to Neil’s list) including asking your local library to link to you as a reference; setting up speaking gigs; and interviewing experts in your field.
How to Avoid an Unnatural Links Penalty by AboutUs
Kristina Weis explains plainly and concisely how Google evaluates “unnatural” links, the specific types of links to avoid (paid, sitewide, blog networks), and some common backlink-checking tools (another is Backlink Watch).
Noting that Google’s efforts to deindex “overoptimized” websites are likely to penalize many legitimate sites as well as spammy site, Modesto Siotos provides detailed instructions for a more technical audience on how to check your “backlink risk,” the tools required, and remedial actions to take if it appears your site could be at risk of a Google penalty.
Preparing for Link Armageddon by Search Engine Journal
Jeff Bedford laments Google’s decision to deindex several major blog networks, which particularly impacted blogs that relied heavily on syndication networks for inbound links. He then outlines several tactics for replacing those links, from tradition PR to social relationship building, forums and guest blogging.
Linking Strategies: The Complete Guide by Coconut Headphones
***** 5 STARS
Ted Ives offers an outstanding guide to link building, with tactics organized into five main categories: Highly Effective (e.g., produce great content, optimize news releases, ask partners for links); Worth Considering (coupons, commenting); Hard to Get Right; Wildcard Approaches (such as infographics); and Black Hat (best to avoid).
The Noob Guide to Link Building by SEOmoz
***** 5 STARS
Once you’ve absorbed Ted’s post above, Michael King serves up another long, detailed, and excellent (though also misnamed; true noobs will be lost, and this post has value for SEOs well beyond the noob stage) six-month link building plan, starting with quick hits like social profiles and select directories and moving along through ego bait, guest posts and event publicity.
8 Link Building Tips – Whiteboard Friday by SEOmoz
Paddy Moogan presents eight link-building tips in eight minutes. My favorite: “Go to Meetup.com and search for the word ‘blogger’ and refine the results by your area, and you’ll find local bloggers meeting up in the same place. So you may find music bloggers, design bloggers, fashion bloggers. Instead of emailing all of those people, just go to the event. Go and meet them, say hello, buy them a drink, go and have dinner. It’s a much better way of building a relationship than just firing (out) a bunch of emails.”
Quality Links & Quality Content: Linchpins of Your SEO Strategy by Search Engine Watch
Christian Arno discusses what constitutes a “quality link” (site relevance and trust) and how to go about getting more of them (PR, guest posts, social media, and other web presence optimization tactics), as well as consistently producing quality, link-worthy content.
Link Building Strategies That Will Work in 2013 by PPC for Hire
Jon Clark outlines half a dozen “Penguin-safe” link-building strategies, such as making the most of internal site links, posting on industry-specific forums, and linking out: “Whenever you come across a blog or site relevant to your niche, participate in the conversation with the author and other readers via comments. Leave fresh, useful and informative comments and create a backlink to your website.”
Rand Fishkin pontificates on “the egress of old link building practices and the ingress of new (old) link earning strategies that will help your site stay relevant in the SERPs and drive your traffic with a better user experience,” concluding that while certain “old school” link-building tactics may still have some value, content marketing will be the most important practice going forward.
SEO Link Building Q&A with an Ex-Google Webspam Team Member by Search Engine Journal
Jason DeMers interviews Andre Weyher, a former member of the webspam team at Google, about backlinking do’s and don’ts. Among the answers: on how Penguin determines which domains to penalize, “The most obvious element that it focuses on is ranking due to a large amount of bad quality backlinks but it also takes into account spammy on-page techniques like keyword stuffing and over-optimization of tags and internal links;” on how identifies bad neighborhoods, “Search engines rely on website fingerprinting to identify clusters of ownership. If a particular website is relying on techniques that are not abiding the guidelines, it’s likely that the other sites owned by the same person are doing the same;” and regarding misconceptions about bad links, “Some of the biggest misconceptions that I have seen out there include ‘directories are altogether bad’ or ‘anything that is below a certain PR is considered spammy by Google.’”
131 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies by Search Engine Watch
Julie Joyce (again) compiles a huge list of link-building tactics and tips, divided into categories including basic techniques, content-based tactics, b2b-specific tips, pointers for guest posting, and practices to avoid (such as spammy links or those unlikely to drive any traffic).
How to Get Rid of Unwanted Backlinks by Search Engine Watch
Noting that, due to Google’s Penguin update, “for many websites (and a lot of business models that involve selling 50,000 links for $10) the sky is falling. Websites that have built an unnatural looking backlink profile using a strategy of aggressive exact match anchor text usage are setting off Google’s spam alarm,” Jennifer Van Iderstyne explains how to identify and rid yourself of “bad” backlinks, and lists some of her favorite backlink research tools.
17 Tools to Analyze Your Links by Practical eCommerce
Sig Ueland reviews 17 tools for analyzing a site’s backlink profile, ranging from “dedicated link identifiers, full search-engine-optimization suites, and link tools for search engines,”, free and paid. The list includes both popular tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer as well as lesser-known alternatives like Ahrefs.
Five Killer Link-building Tools by SitePoint
Writing that “As far as link-building tools go, there are two main sorts: those that help with the data and analysis side of things, and those that focus more on speeding up the process of building relationships with other site owners” but “knowing which tools to pick from the wide variety available can be tricky,” Christina Fusano recommends a handful of excellent and proven tools, including BuzzStream and Raven Tools.
Steven Musil reports on Google’s disavow links tool, designed to enable webmasters to remove links they believe might be hurting their search rankings. Of course, it’s not always obvious what constitutes a “bad” link, and if good links are accidentally deleted, it’s a time-consuming process to get them reinstated. Still, this is a vital tool—when all else fails.
4 Tools Breaking Your Backlinks into Categories by Internet Marketing Ninjas
The awesome Ann Smarty reviews four tools for categorizing backlinks in various ways, such as by source type (e.g., news site, blog, directory), topic (general, computers, fashion) and placement (footer, site-wide, image, comment), which can be very helpful in executing a web presence optimization strategy. The good news is that all of these tools can provide some valuable filtering and insights; the bad news is none yet provide a high level of comprehensiveness and accuracy.
79 Link Building Resources for 2012 by KISSmetrics
If you just can’t enough link building information, Kristi Hines here provides links to 79 more link-building resources ranging from “Thought Pieces on Post-Penguin Link Building” and types of links to avoid to the top link-building tools and blogs.