Unless you have been living under a rock, then you will undoubtedly know about the current state of link-building campaigns that are both Google friendly and can actually deliver results. It isn’t as easy as you might think and does carry with it some level of risk, if you aren’t careful.

Let us start with why links are so important to Google.

A backlink allows Google to:

  • Gather information about a site / page, and
  • Passes signals that help indicate how a page should be ranked

Of course, there is a lot more to it than this simplistic view, but that is the essence of what is achieved. A link has always been the ultimate vote of confidence, and the more reputable the vote, the more it can do for you.

If you want to learn more about the basics of link building, then head over to MOZ and read their guide. It will certainly help you get off the ground and give you an understanding on just what a link does for you. Just remember not to rush into anything. Research your ideas to find out if others have run into issues and how they were resolved.

Building back-links post Panda, requires a certain level of cautiousness. You can no longer rush along to your preferred article spinner, have them rattle off 100 articles in half an hour and expect them to do anything for you. Well, they might – you might end up with a penalty!

There are any number of guides available for those wishing to undertake their own link building campaign. A quick search can show you some of these, but remember that many of these articles have not been updated in some time, so tread carefully and always do your research.

Where to Start – Identifying the gems

When looking for links, it is always worthwhile doing a little competition analysis. Choose a few of your preferred competitors and review their backlink profile using something like Majestic SEO, AHREFS or Open Site Explorer. Each of these requires a paid account in order to deliver the best results, but you can gather limited data with the free versions.

Once you have the data extracted, it is time to start analysing the links to see which are going to be the best to go after. Each of the tools mentioned above, give you the means to sort the identified links, so choose your metric and get to work.

Building your linkable assets

There is absolutely no point in trying to build links if you have nothing of particular interest to offer. You need to find that hook and use it as a lead in. For example, if you do nothing other than sell shoes online, then you aren’t naturally going to invite a lot of high quality links. It’s a service that lots of people might want, but you might be offering nothing different to all of the other online shops. So how do you combat this? By building Linkable Assets.

A linkable asset is what it sounds like – something that can be used as a way to get others to want to link to you. This can be research, an infographic, a competition, a resource that people will want to use or refer to – in fact, anything that is going to appeal to your target audience.

Think outside the box. Look at those who are winning in the SERPs and see what they are doing in order to gather links. This doesn’t mean that you should go and directly copy what they are doing, but there is no harm in producing something more up to date; something that offers a different view or additional added service benefits.

Once you have an idea what you are going to do, don’t be afraid of buying in the services of a copywriter to write you some amazing content. Remember, you have to be doing something better than the next man.

Organising and performing outreach

There is no point in going to all the trouble of identifying backlinks, if you have no means to keep track of where you are up to. For this, I prefer to use Buzzstream. It is probably the best tool to help you organise your links, gather contact information, track communications and painlessly send e-mails. Without it, you might struggle a little and have to rely on more archaic methods.

When performing your outreach, don’t just blanket-mail everyone. They won’t appreciate the contact this way and I can guarantee your campaign will fail. Always personalise your approach.

Take a bit of time to research contacts, see what they have been publishing, mention this when making contact and don’t go in with a strong sales approach. If you put someone on a back foot this early on, you might burn your bridges for the future. Follow them on Twitter and see if you can strike up a conversation and see if they have any interest in what you have to offer.

It might also help if you aren’t worried about picking up the phone and talking to someone. Ask if they are able to feature you on their site, but never mention links. Offer yourself as a resource for their readers and explain why. If you are comfortable talking in this manner, you will achieve more. It is activity such as this that has helped me acquire PR8 / DA 85+ links from very difficult sources for clients.

Nofollow vs Dofollow

The age-old debate rages on! The actual answer here depends on what you are trying to achieve, but get into the mindset first, that no link from a reputable source is a waste of time. Both dofollow and nofollow can help in different ways. A dofollow link passes page rank (PR), while a nofollow can help with citation building and passing along different signals about subject matter. For the purposes of this article, I am only discussing hyperlinks and not non-clickable citations.

So where do you spend your time? There is no actual correct answer to this because a good natural link profile won’t just consist of one type. There will be a mix of both dofollow and nofollow links. If it contained nothing but dofollow, it would start to look suspicious, so don’t get too hung up on this.

What does the perfect link look like?

Stay well clear of heavy / spammy anchor text! This is one of the most important aspects with any link as anchor text used to tell Google more about the link, but this changed when they saw it was being abused. All of a sudden, everyone was scrabbling around disavowing links by the bucketload!

Safe anchor text now looks neutral or editorially given, as the following examples show:

  • www.domain.com
  • Brand / Site name / Personal Name
  • Click Here

Keep it straight forward and you will avoid a lot of issues. You also don’t want to include too many links in an article – try to stay with no more than 2-3 if you want to reference different pages and if it really is called for, make the anchor text short but descriptive. Anchor texts like this should always be unbiased and never sound like a sales call. If you use the same anchor text time and time again, this will start to send negative signals.

Overly optimised anchor text is one of the big signals that hit sites affected by Panda, so remember:

  • Maintain relevance
  • Vary anchor texts
  • Avoid over optimisation

 Advanced Linkbuilding Techniques

It might not come as any shock to learn that you can up your game when it comes to building links, and move over to some of the advanced techniques that are out there. For this article, I am going to show you how to use Wikipedia as a wonderful way to gather the information that you need in order to start this.

However, remember that this can be very time consuming and doesn’t work 100% of the time, but then it does…!

You will start by searching Google for the pages in Wikipedia that you can target. You do this by using the search operator site:

site:wikipedia.org “veterinary” intext:”dead link”

The reason that this works, is because Wikipedia very kindly inform us when a dead link is discovered and mark it as such with “dead link” at the end of the text.

Choose the page that interests you from Google, then just search on that page for “dead link”. Most of the time you will find what you want in the reference list at the end of the page. If all is going to plan, when you click the link then it should take you to a dead page.

The beauty about this technique is not only does it give you the opportunity to write something that you can submit to Wikipedia (further down the line), but you can inspect that page to see if it has other referring domains pointing to it. I like to use Open Site Explorer to show me what is linking to a page.

Advanced link building techniques

From the data below, you can see that this page has 23 links pointing to it, each of them probably blissfully unaware of this fact. In you step with this information and advise them of the problems on the page!

Finding links at Open Site Explorer

Now you head to the Wayback Machine, enter that URL and look for the last time the page was live and what it consisted of. This is the content you want to update and write. Make it better though – give these sites (and Wikipedia) a reason to update the information they have.

Wayback machine archived page

To help ease the process, I use Buzzstream to help me identify the contacts on the site.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. You are doing these sites a favour because dead links are bad for usability, and no-one wants that.

A little pointer though, don’t just go stomping into Wikipedia and update the page with a link of your own, because chances are, it it will be removed. Spend a little time updating pages with nothing but information. If your first addition is just a link, you will gain unwanted attention.