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Creative Link Building Techniques For A Sustainable Link Building Strategy

Emma North

by Emma North on 5th March 2013

Creative Link Building TechniquesSearch Engine Optimisation is not the same game it was two years ago and evolves at rapid pace. Without the knowledge, skills and drive to keep informed and up-to-date, SEO’s can quickly become behind with the times.

Arguably one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in SEO is the way we build links. In fact, the very idea of “building links” is becoming out of date as Google crashes down on unnatural link profiles. Think about it; if you’ve built a link, it is unlikely to be a “natural” backlink. However, there are ways we can actively improve link profiles with quality backlinks and still fall within Google guidelines by using creative link building techniques.

In this post I will discuss creative ways to build high quality, natural backlinks as part of a sustainable link building strategy.

Monitor Brand Mentions

With Google Trends and other similar tools, you can easily monitor each time you brand name is mentioned across the web. You can also set up email or browser notifications to find out whenever your chosen keyword (in this instance, your brand) is mentioned and when you find a new mention, go and check it out.

If the site is discussing your brand and has a good PageRank, check whether they link to you somewhere on the page. More often than not you will find that they already are which is great and you can try and build a strong relationship with them in the future for further links. You can also review the anchor text and see if it could be improved. If they’re not linking to you, contact the site owners and politely request that they make your brand name an anchor to your site or suggest they link to a piece of your content that further builds on their article.

Internal Broken Link Building

Fixing broken links on your site is an essential part of site maintenance but can also be a great technique for regaining lost backlinks.

Start by analysing your backlink profile using a link analysis tool such as Majestic SEO, Screaming Frog or Open Site Explorer. Using tools like these and with a bit of manual exporting, filtering and analysis you can find links to broken pages on your site. You’re looking for pages with a 404 or similar error. Be sure to check any broken links manually though: no tool is 100% accurate 100% of the time.

When you have a definitive list of backlinks which point to old broken pages, you have a number of options to resolve. You may just need to fix the broken page if it isn’t meant to be broken, or 301 the broken page to a relevant live page, however ensure that the link will still be relevant if doing so. Alternatively if the links come from other website, you can contact the sites linking back to you and request that they change their link to the relevant live page. Whichever way you resolve the issue, you will end up with an old link revitalised and current once more.

This technique can take time and doesn’t usually provide a wealth of new link juice, but is a great way of keeping your link profile current and clean, as well as identifying issues with your pages that you may not have otherwise been aware of.

External Broken Link Building

This variation on “broken link building” involves looking for broken links to your competitors’ sites or other sites in your industry. In the same way as internal broken link building, you can look for these opportunities by running your chosen relevant sites through link analysis tools and looking for broken links. You can also use the Broken Link Checker plugin for Chrome and carry out some basic checks on-page.

Once you have identified a potential opportunity, contact the site owner to let them know they have a broken link. Sites generally want to know if they have broken links as it is in their interest to resolve them, which means you can get their attention and are offering them something beneficial to them. This is also a good chance to suggest a page on your website that might be relevant to their website and worth a link.

You won’t always get a link through this technique, sometimes the site owners will just fix the link and be done with you, but if you can get a link out of it you will likely also build a relationship with the site owner, meaning more potential opportunities in the future.

Get Interviewed

Get Interviewed to Build LinksOne great way to get a natural backlink is to find someone to interview you or provide a quote for a blog post or news article on a relevant industry site. This might sound difficult to achieve, but in reality you are an expert in what you do (or should be) and your opinion is valuable to the right person.

To begin this process, look for high quality sites which discuss topics relevant to your business. See what sort of content they have written before, looking at style, quality and target audience.

When you identify a potential interview opportunity, send the site a polite email or message and pitch the idea. If you get a positive response, find out what sort of questions they want to ask and you can begin compiling some responses.

When you provide your answers or quote for the interviewer, make sure you remain neutral and unbiased. Avoid talking about your company or brand (unless it’s directly relevant to the post) and concentrate on providing genuinely interesting or useful insight. No-one wants to read your opinion on how wonderful your company is, but they may be interested in what you have to say on a relevant topic.

Run Competitions

Competitions are a proven technique for increasing social engagement and followers, but they can also be good for generating quality links. With the right promotion and a great incentive to enter, competitions are often linked from other sites across the web. Gaz Copeland (@stokedseo) put together a great post on the topic here.

Refresh Old Content

Sometimes, great content on the web that is still read and ranks well is actually several years old and may even be mildly out of date in terms of content. Equally, sometimes great content becomes so out of date that it is no longer read or listed in rankings and no-one rewrites it.

If you can find content like this that is relevant to your industry it provides you with a fantastic opportunity to recreate the content, pitch your idea to the original site and supply them with a link to your site.

The best way to find this sort of content is to search Google for terms related to your business and add words like “definitive guide”, “complete guide” or “whitepaper”. Browse through the results and look for old or out-of-date content. Then think about how you could improve it.

When you’ve got a target site and idea, contact the site owner with your proposition. If the original page has a lot of backlinks and/or good search engine ranking, you could really win big with a high-quality link.

Embeddable Resources = Link Bait

Spending the time and/or money into creating a quality, shareable resource can be a worthwhile investment. However, by adding embed code at the bottom you can transform a quality resource from interesting and potentially shareable to solid gold* link bait.

The perfect example of a site doing this well is YouTube. With embed codes on every single video and people all over the world embedding videos on their own sites daily, their link profile will never stop growing.

There are many different types of resource which can be embedded, including:

  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • Widgets

Remember to include a call-to-action with your embed code as well as social share buttons to encourage engagement. For more information, see this great guide to creating viral linkbait and infographics from Distilled.

* Please note: adding embed code does not generate solid gold. You need some kind of mine for that I hear.

Guest Blogging

This technique in particular is nothing new, but the benefits of guest blogging are often significantly underestimated. In addition, there is a hidden benefit to guest blogging; relationships. The process of placing guest blog posts naturally allows you to build personal relationships with site owners and if your first blog post is successful there will likely be opportunity for you to do so again in the future.

The process of guest blogging is really quite a simple one, only it takes a little time and manual effort to be successful. However the rewards are well worth it, as a well-placed blog post not only gives your site a quality backlink but also potential referral traffic and brand awareness. With a bit of reach, strong outreach and quality content, a guest blog post can pour in traffic.

George Musson (@GeoMusson) wrote a guest blog for Koozai last year on how to find blogs for guest blog posting which is a great place to start if you need some tips and tricks for guest blogging.

Your Ideas

Got any more creative or innovative link building techniques that work in a post-penguin world? Share them in the comments below! Later this year I intend to write another post on new sustainable link building techniques and would happily cite you and your comments below if you have useful and unique ideas.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2013: My subsequent post “More Creative Link Building Techniques for a Natural Backlink Profile” is now live. Enjoy!

Link Building Image from Bigstock
Interview Image from Bigstock

Emma North

Emma North

Emma has more than 5 years’ digital marketing experience and has worked on dozens of websites in a wide range of industries. She has a passion for both SEO and PPC and is driven by the need to develop her digital skills and knowledge. She is always exploring innovative solutions for new problems encountered in the ever-changing digital world.

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  • Sunita Biddu 5th March 2013

    You have listed good methods Emma but I believe contests isn’t an easy option really. Very demanding, time consuming and need a solid thought and idea to pitch people…. Thanks for the post :)

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 5th March 2013

      Thanks for your feedback Sunita. I agree that competitions is not an easy option; in fact none of the techniques I’ve looked at are particularly easy, but they are good ways to build quality Penguin-proof links. And of course, they applicable for all businesses but when planned and executed properly they can provide real value.

      Reply to this comment

  • Stephen O'Neil 5th March 2013

    Excellent article Emma. I’ve found the response to competitions we’ve run with clients to be easy to superb. They’re not that difficult to setup either.

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 5th March 2013

      Thanks Stephen, good to hear. I’m a real believer in them, having also run them successfully in the past, so it’s good to see they’re still getting good results!

      Reply to this comment

  • Marko Saric 5th March 2013

    Lots of good advice here! Thinking a bit more about links when creating content and when promoting will definitely prove to be a good investment of time! Many don’t think of it that way but should do!

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 5th March 2013

      Thanks Marko, I definitely agree. Content is the ultimate tool for creating quality backlinks and it will become an increasingly important part of sustainable link building strategies.

      Reply to this comment

  • Brian 6th March 2013

    Nice info, 1st time learn about this website from S.E. Land news letter.

    Reply to this comment

  • Lyndon NA (theAutocrat) 6th March 2013

    I’d disagree that things have changed that much.
    It would be more accurate to say that now people are basically being forced to do things the way they should have been doing them for years.

    Instead, we can see huge chunks of the SEO industry showing that they are 2+ years behind the curve – which has left them (and their clients!) vulnerable and likely performing under-par.

    Link Building is in 3 distinct categories;
    1) Direct SEO Value
    2) InDirect SEO Value
    3) Taffic/Lead Value

    Far to many people only associate (1) with Link Building – where as the focus should be mostly on (2) and (3) – with a little on (1).

    Worse than that – people take note of what G has been doing, misread it and then worsen their situation.

    Take Directories.
    G recently hit directory sites – again. They’ve done it several times over the years (funny how most SEOs don’t mention that). So the general point of view is that directories hold no Value.
    This utterly ignores that some Directories still get a flow of traffic (sure, Yelp and Yell may only get a single digit % of what G gets – but that’s still a Ton of traffic!) … some of which a site could benefit from. Worse yet, a load of peopel are being told to not bother with Directories – despite there being numerous directories that G uses for Local SEO (think of NAP and Reviews/Ratings).

    Then there is the article marketing/syndication bash.
    Indeed – most of those site suck, horrendously.
    But there are still some good places to get content in, if you can. But you should be focusing on Quality content, not what amounts to little more than a “look at us” post.
    (as an addition – if people are looking ahead to thingsl ike AuthorRank – getting good content out and reviewed is likely to be beneficial in other ways).

    People also tend to ignore the concept of 1st and 2nd generation links.
    They don’t build links on nofollowed pages/sites because they hold no PR value.
    Big whoop!
    You don’t put links out just for SEO Value – you want traffic and conversions.
    Take Commenting for example.
    Sure, comment links may pass no PR etc., but they do get the occassional click. If your comment is good enough, if the link destination is good enough – it will pick up a few new links … and these will be Organic links! Chances are, they will not only pass PR, but be from topically relevant pages!

    So the biggest problem with Link Building is the mentality, lack of imagination and lack of fore-sight of most link builders.

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 6th March 2013

      Thanks for your comment, and I actually completely agree with you! The trouble is, link builders are not creative until their hands are forced by Google and it really shouldn’t be like that. This describes the idea of the “sustainable link strategy” I refer to: creating links that will hold value for the foreseeable future because they’re exactly the sort of thing Google wants to see.

      Of course when it comes to things like directories and article sites, we are all guilty of generalising when of course there are still acceptable ones out there that will likely remain so for quite some time. However with so much fear and negative press about these types of tactics, I think it is important that the casual or in-house SEO exercises caution with these tactics.

      Reply to this comment

  • Annalisa Hilliard 6th March 2013

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m a huge fan of updating broken links both internally and externally.

    With penguin, many link builders are having to go through backlinks and clean house. Why not make the best of a time intensive process and look for broken link opportunities as well?

    I also appreciate the points Lyndon made. Indeed, a tactic is only as good or bad as the motivation & scale in which it is done. As you mentioned many tactics have gotten bad press, and rightfully so, should be done with discretion.

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 6th March 2013

      Thanks Annalisa. During a backlink analysis is definitely a good time to carry out research for broken link building, great idea, thanks for sharing!

      Reply to this comment

  • Shalu Sharma 6th March 2013

    I like the idea of getting interviewed. But will high quality sites not snub you by not replying to your email. About guest posts, I am hearing that many are now stopping guest posts because there may be a penalty attached to it. Problogger has stopped taking them.

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 7th March 2013

      Thanks for your comment Shalu. With interviews, it can take a bit of outreach before you find a suitable site but as long as the proposal is good and you can help provide the site with a mutual benefit, ie; a quality piece of content, it is achievable.

      Regarding guest blogging, this is still a very successful technique for gaining quality links and also getting your name “out there”. With the rise of Authorship, I believe this will continue to be the case when done properly for quite some time. It is only where this is abused that Google would have a problem, such as unnatural use of an author profile or poor blog post content.

      Reply to this comment

  • Scott 12th March 2013

    I’ve been saying for a couple of years that the only way to truly and safely build back links is to create quality content that people WANT to link to.

    Signature links are not natural back links, neither are blog comments.

    Unfortunately for us, the last 10 years has seen methods created which started off this way, along with link directories and other outdated methods.

    I see it all the time, links in comments that have absolutely 0 to do with your niche.

    I do think that articles are a great way to drive extra traffic and relevant backlinks to your website, but I’ve always stayed away from this because I won’t write articles for websites that are not mine.

    Blogs are a good way too, providing the content is written yourself and not plagiarized poorly from some other website. Its also a good traffic builder.

    Quality over quantity should be priority for anybody doing SEO.

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 12th March 2013

      Thanks Scott, I completely agree. We’re entering a new age of link building that isn’t the quick and easy job it once was, and that is no bad thing. Finally link builders have to work for quality backlinks, not quick and easy wins.

      Reply to this comment

      • Scott 12th March 2013

        It makes sense. What’s the point in a user entering my keywords and coming up with irrelevant results. In a sense, link building in itself is a bad thing as its cheating natural content out of ranking in its respectful position.

        I understand the importance of websites ranking high, but it should be a truly natural process. I think the way the last 10 years has taken us has pretty much wiped out that chance now.

        People are clever. The next measures Google puts in, somebody will find a way around them. Same thing happens in all walks of life. People are lazy, people want returns for as little investment (whether it be time or money) as possible.

        The cultural life of the hard working 50′s and 60′s is long over. Wish I was there to see it, I was born in the [not so] wonderful 1987.

      • Emma North

        Emma North 12th March 2013

        Essentially “link building” does oppose the idea of natural links on the surface, but that doesn’t mean that all of the tactics we can use to gain quality links result in unnatural links. For example, running a competition to get links will result in perfectly natural links, it’s just an activity undertaken to achieve them.

  • Panos 12th March 2013

    With the Penguin 4 on its way, noone knows what to expect in SEO universe this year.
    It might be very surprising for all of us.

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 12th March 2013

      I think you’re right Panos, there’s definitely something major in the Google pipeline. It’s more important than ever to maintain a natural backlink profile!

      Reply to this comment

  • imogame 15th March 2013

    Hi Emma, I thank you for sharing all those tips. But I still confused about anchor text (link building). which is the best, anchor text with keyword, or general words like “click here” “check this out”, or our brand name?

    Thank you

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 15th March 2013

      Hi there, thanks for your comment. Anchor text should be a balance of brand related terms, generic terms and target keyword terms.

      The proportions are the subject of much debate and really depend on your industry, but in my opinion you should aim to have around 50% of your anchor text as brand terms (including domain names) with no more than 10-15% of your anchor text exact-match keywords. Any more than this will look unnatural. The rest should be long tail keywords and generic terms (“click here”, etc.).

      But that’s just my opinion! Ultimately it will vary depending on your industry, competition and site strength.

      I hope that helps!

      Reply to this comment

  • Advenser 15th May 2013

    Hi Emma,

    Great article for creative link building techniques

    Reply to this comment

  • Danny from FM 14 28th May 2013

    Great article, as always Emma, found myself reading through every comment above too, thats how I know its a GREAT article!

    Couldn’t agree more with your first point BTW, monitoring brand mentions for leveraging links makes up about 50% of my strategy.

    Keep up the good work.

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 29th May 2013

      Thanks very much Danny! And yes I definitely think that monitoring brand mentions is a very underrated and often overlooked link building strategy; good to hear it’s working well for you!

      Reply to this comment

  • Philipp 6th June 2013

    Does your website have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail.

    I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

    Reply to this comment

  • Espen Høgli 14th June 2013

    Thank you for this great tips.

    Is it true that adding some dofollow links will aid you in the long run?

    And how much internal linking is too much?
    Internal linking vs external? 50/50 or?

    Reply to this comment

    • Emma North

      Emma North 17th June 2013

      Hi Espen, thanks for your comment.

      When you say adding “dofollow links”, I assume you mean links without the “nofollow” attribute, therefore links which do flow PageRank. If so, these are the links that contribute to your link profile and are fundamental for strong search engine performance. Links act as stamps of approval from one site to another that search engine interpret as a “vote” for your site.

      Regarding internal linking, it is difficult to give estimates as it very much depends on the structure of your site but try to ensure that internal links are there only to benefit the user and aid navigation. If an internal link is not providing this sort of value then you might want to get rid.

      I hope this helps!

      Reply to this comment

  • Emma North

    Emma North 9th September 2013

    Six months on from this post I’ve now written “More Creative Link Building Techniques for a Natural Backlink Profile”. I hope you all find it useful too: http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/more-creative-link-building-techniques/

    Reply to this comment

  • Locums4you 29th September 2014

    First of all thanks a lot for the great article. going to use some of the great tips listed in the article.

    Reply to this comment

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